SeaWorld, a family entertainment company that currently has 11 theme parks across the United States, has announced that it will soon phase out one of its classic attractions at the San Diego location.
The Orlando-based company announced that it would soon replace its Shamu, also known as the killer whale show, with an attraction that will feature the animals in a more natural setting.
The move was said to be influenced by animal rights activists who were not “impressed” with the theme parks’ orca shows. The activists accused SeaWorld of animal cruelty by unnecessarily keeping orcas in captivity.
The dwindling attendance numbers at SeaWorld is being attributed to a critical documentary of how killer whales are treated at the theme parks. Since the film was released in 2013, the company’s market value has reportedly dropped by half.
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“We start everything by listening to our guests and evolving our shows to what we’re hearing, and so far that’s what we’ve been hearing in California,” said SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby in a statement.
In addition, Manby, who came to SeaWorld in March, said that guests told them that they want to see killer whales in a more natural environment. This means that they are more interested in orcas that behave naturally.
While Manby did not provide any specific details about the change, he stressed that the company did this not to appease the critics.
Two years after the release of the documentary Blackfish, SeaWorld is still battling activist groups such as PETA. The company claims that the film is not an objective documentary, but more of a “propaganda.”
— Metro (@MetroUK) November 10, 2015
Referring to a neuroscientist who claimed in the documentary that all killer whales in captivity are “emotionally destroyed,” the theme park said that these claims were made in order to “advance” the many “falsehoods” found in the film.
“These are not the words of science, and indeed, there is not a shred of scientific support for them,” SeaWorld said.
As seen in the documentary, a killer whale was responsible for the drowning of Dawn Brancheau, an orca trainer in the Orlando theme park in 2010.
Animal rights activists see the act as a form of retaliation of the killer whale. As a result, federal citations and fines have kept the trainers from the water ever since.
Unfortunately, pushing through with the plan to change the orca shows would mean that the company will shelve its recent $100 million project to double the container numbers for SeaWorld in San Diego.
In addition, the California Coastal Commission also ruled out the project, stating that they would only be allowed to expand the containers if they are going to stop breeding orcas.
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Still, SeaWorld reportedly “vows” to fight this ruling in order to expand the killer whales’ containers.
“The decision by SeaWorld to phase out killer whale shows in San Diego is a welcome step along the path towards ending the captivity of these magnificent creatures,” said Rep. Adam Schiff about SeaWorld’s decision.
However, he emphasized that much needs to be done, and that includes barring the company from breeding orcas inside its fences. Moreover, he wants to introduce a federal law that would prohibit the capture of wild orcas, as well as stop the import and export of the animals.
The move for SeaWorld to change its traditional shows could be the result of a recent 12 percent increase in earnings during the third quarter.
Meanwhile, the orca theatrical shows will continue to run at other SeaWorld theme parks in San Antonio, Texas, and Orlando, Florida.
[Image by Matt Stroshane, Getty Images]