New SeaWorld executives are on their way in as the theme park continues to suffer from PETA protesters. The plan is to attempt to save the company’s image after animal rights activists discovered alleged animal cruelty in the handling of the famous killer whales.
For decades, the theme park had thrived on amazing audiences with shows featuring aquatic life in captivity. Shamu was a huge draw until she died, an entertaining killer whale who was captured and made the center of attention for millions. She was the fourth of her kind ever captured, and SeaWorld had thrived on breeding them in captivity and continuing its shows in which they jumped through hoops and performed other stunts.
However, animal rights groups grew in influence and the idea of animals in captivity has never been something they agreed with. When animals and trainers alike started dying, protesters like PETA took notice and decided that SeaWorld executives and employees were being too cruel to the aquatic creatures.
The backlash from PETA grew into an internet phenomenon, especially after the Blackfish documentary, and the theme park came to realize something needed to change. Out are chief parks operations officer Dan Brown, and chief zoological officer Brad Andrews, according to The Guardian. The theme park’s chief executive Joel Manby said that they are being replaced by others with “extraordinary depth of knowledge” and “the right expertise to deliver on our strategic priorities.”
For a company which has been around for decades, PETA might focus on why the company has gone so long without doing this before. It might not be enough to simply swap out SeaWorld executives though. The activist group could easily shift their focus to the park continuing to keep animals contained, a notion which led to the trend in supermarkets offering free range chicken and cage-free eggs.
The Orlando facility’s spokesperson, Aimée Jeansonne Becka, has declined to comment due to the company being in a “quiet period” prior to Thursday’s earnings report, says AZ Central.
The proposed changes will see Dan Brown retiring as San Diego park president, and John Reilly will take his place. Brad Andrews is expected to stay only as an adviser, while vice president of veterinary services Chris Dold becomes the new chief zoological officer. Dan Becker, President of the San Antonio park, will be leaving as Carl Lum of the Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Water Country USA park inherits his duties. It is yet unclear if the SeaWorld executive shuffle will help the company shake off PETA protests with new policies and safety precautions.
— Dolphin Project (@Dolphin_Project) February 19, 2016
So far the damage from public opinion has led to many merchandisers dropping SeaWorld from their toy lines. The orca related deaths have already given the company enough backlash that the theme park is planning to end probably the most iconic show on their roster. In 2016, the killer whale stunt show is expected to end, replaced with audiences simply watching them in captivity. It is unknown what is planned to bring audiences back. The company appears to be hoping that the new SeaWorld executives will bring enough new blood that they can change their reputation for the better.
The Wall Street Journal says one possible idea is the building of a hotel in San Diego, much like Orlando’s Walt Disney World. Giving theme park attendees a place to stay might be an added incentive to bring audiences back as the parks themselves turn their focus from orca shows to preservation displays.
If a focus on preservation and a new hotel in their original theme park aren’t enough to bring audiences back, it’s unknown what the SeaWorld executive shuffle will do to keep them in business.
[Feature image via Tinseltown / Shutterstock.com]