The iconic chain of theme parks, owned by SeaWorld Entertainment, announced it will stop breeding orcas for its parks. The whales, which are actually in the dolphin family, have been a mainstay of theme parks for 60 years, over 50 for SeaWaorld.
One of the most intelligent animal species on the planet, they have been trained to perform for audiences since first being taken out of the wild in the early 1960’s. For SeaWorld in San Diego, the animals have been the main — and most popular — asset at the park. That is all changing. In a statement released on their website entitled “A Vision for SeaWorld/SeaWorld Cares,” SeaWorld announced, “We’re making historic announcements at SeaWorld, including ending orca breeding, introducing new, inspiring and natural orca encounters, and launching new partnerships to protect oceans and marine animals. We’re creating a new vision for SeaWorld that will help us deliver on our mission that every guest who walks through our doors will be inspired to take action to help protect wild animals and wild places.”
After a large amount of negative publicity, primarily after the documentary Blackfish was aired on CNN in 2013, SeaWorld has been dealing with a lot of backlash from animal rights groups and the public.
Three people have been killed by captive orcas in the past 30 years, the last being Dawn Brancheau in 2010, at the SeaWorld park in Orlando, Florida. She was killed by an orca named Tilikum, who, 11 years earlier, was blamed for the death of a park visitor that somehow got into the pool with Tilikum after that park, located in British, Columbia, Canada, had closed for the day. He died of hypothermia from the frigid water in the pool.
There have been varying numbers of protestors outside the theme park’s three U.S. locations for several years, even though SeaWorld has scaled back its orca performances and limited the time trainers spend in the water with the animals.
In the statement, SeaWorld said, “The new vision for SeaWorld reflects changes in society and SeaWorld’s evolution with those changes, including ending killer whale breeding, new inspiring natural orca encounters, and new partnerships to protect oceans and marine animals.”
It went on to say, “The killer whales in our care will be the last at SeaWorld. We haven’t taken a whale from the wild in nearly 40 years. Now, we’re going further and will end our orca breeding programs as of today. With the skills and dedication of our entire SeaWorld team, we will protect and care for these whales – here at our parks – for the rest of their lives where guests will continue to view and be inspired by them.
“We will introduce new, inspiring, natural orca encounters rather than theatrical shows, as part of our ongoing commitment to education, marine science research and the rescue of marine animals. Everything will reflect the natural world and will focus on the research, education, care and respect that align with our mission to advance the well-being and conservation of these beautiful creatures. These programs will focus on orca enrichment, exercise and overall health, and the change will start in our San Diego park next year, followed by San Antonio and then Orlando in 2019.”
SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby penned an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times, which you can read Here. he explained the company’s change, adding, “… the real enemies of wildlife are poaching, pollution, unsustainable human development and man-made disasters such as oil spills — not zoos and aquariums.”
For the entire statement by Seaworld, Click Here.
Top photo is an Orca in Hood Canal, in Puget Sound, Washington. (Wikipedia)
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