SeaWorld, the world’s largest holder of orcas in captivity, is finally putting an end to its killer whale entertainment shows at SeaWorld San Diego in 2017.
However, the animals are not yet free. They will still be housed in the animal theme park for a new “orca experience” that will focus on conservation education with emphasis on “natural setting” and “natural environment,” according to the theme park.
At SeaWorld, orcas that perform various tricks and stunts in theatrical shows are referred to by the stage name “Shamu,” who was the star of SeaWorld San Diego’s first killer whale show in the 1960s.
These orcas are animals from the wild that have been separated from their families and captured by humans. They are not performers and should not be treated as such. They only “perform” because they receive food for doing so.
According to the 2013 documentary “Blackfish,” keeping orcas in captivity causes them to become violent, which results in attacks against the trainers. The film was said to be a main cause of the theme park’s significant decrease in attendance in recent years.
In 2010, a killer whale drowned Dawn Brancheau, an experienced SeaWorld trainer, after a show while park attendees watched in the audience. This is only one of many incidents at SeaWorld over the years.
While SeaWorld previously claimed orcas in captivity have similar lifespans as those in the wild, this is far from the truth. According to the Marine Mammal Science Journal, the global median lifespan of a killer whale in captivity is only 6.1 years. On average, female killer whales in the wild can live for 50 to 90 years while male killer whales in the wild can live for 29 to 60 years.
After the release of “Blackfish,” orcas are receiving more support. In October, the California Coastal Commission banned captive breeding, which means the current whales in captivity will be the last to live a life confined in a tank. Last week, U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff introduced the Orca Responsibility and Care Advancement Act, which prohibits breeding, capturing, importing or exporting the whales for public display purposes. Schiff cited the mammals’ psychological and physical harm as the reason behind the bill.
Although it took more than five decades for SeaWorld to put a stop to its killer whale shows, the whales will remain in captivity, and this is anything but “natural.” Orcas are not entertainers and the shows are harmful to the animals’ well-being and jeopardize the lives of the trainers.