In the 1970s and 1980s, Sea World and its three theme parks became huge tourist attractions with their orca exhibits. These majestic killer whales were stunning in person, especially to young children who frequently visited the parks. As the years passed by, however, extreme scrutiny regarding animal rights and these large whales plagued Sea World’s reputation. In a historic announcement, Sea World is changing their care tactics and promising that these current orcas will be their last ones in captivity.
In 2013, CNN aired a documentary on Sea World called “Blackfish.” This show spotlighted the alleged improper treatment of orcas at all three theme parks. There was almost an immediate response from the public after watching this show. Animal-rights groups and concerned citizens called for justice in the tanks. Although many opponents of “Blackfish” regard some of the facts as exaggerated, there were several good points made about the animals and their trainers. The documented attacks and deaths of trainers perpetrated by the orcas only gave weight to the argument that these animals didn’t belong in captivity.
Sea World tried their best to defend themselves after “Blackfish,” but animal-rights groups continued to bring the orcas’ plights to the forefront of the media. They cited mistreatment and boredom as growing concerns for animals who should be traveling many miles a day in the open ocean. Because Sea World only has a certain amount of space for their whales, it was difficult to refute that the orcas had ample space. These media and animal-rights struggles continued for several years until a historical announcement in 2016.
One of the biggest arguments against Sea World was their continued practice of orca breeding. Currently, the San Diego park has 11 whales in one habitat. Two of these whales are youngsters. The company’s announcement startled many people in the industry by stating that Sea World will no longer breed orcas. This statement includes natural relations and artificial insemination. The remaining pregnant orca will finish out her term, but no other breeding will occur at the parks.
Sea World will continue to show their orcas until the end of their lifespans. Orcas can live 50 to 100 years, according to scientists, so Sea World will have animals for many years to come. However, they’re phasing out their famous theatrical productions. As an alternative, trainers will simply hold shows that focus on the animals’ natural abilities and features. Tricks and other training won’t be part of the parks’ attractions anymore. Sea World has received a positive response to this announcement for both the natural experiences and breeding changes.
A Company Growing and Moving Forward
In an unprecedented move, Sea World is also working with the Humane Society of the United States. This animal-rights group was originally against the work at the parks, but the organization recognizes the positive change in the company. With both organizations moving forward, they can work together and create a healthy habitat for all of the Sea World animals. From improved food sources to habitat alterations, Sea World wants to make their parks as natural as possible for today’s animals and any rescued species in the future.
Sea World is currently looking into the transformation of their tanks in order for the habitats to be as natural as possible. These changes will take considerable money, but the positive outlook regarding Sea World’s future translates into more visitors and happier animals. In the end, each change should be about every animal’s quality of life as Sea World improves its care.