It’s been a long time coming, but SeaWorld has made the announcement that it will be having its final killer whale show today.
The theme park made the shock decision to bring forward its end date for its famous shows, after the death of controversial attraction Tilikum, the 36-year-old orca who died this week, the Daily Mail reports.
Due to dwindling audiences and years of controversy that surrounded the shows featuring killer whales performing a variety of tricks with the trainers, the park has decided to finally bring an end to the suffering of its orcas.
They will however, be opening a new attraction in the Shamu Stadium pool in the summer, which is said to be an ‘educational experience.’
Instead of showing killer whales performing cruel and unnatural tricks, the new show will demonstrate how they eat, communicate and navigate the wide oceans, albeit in captivity…
Despite deeming it a ‘new’ attraction, the captive sea-creatures will still be made to perform certain actions on cues from the trainers.
Former orca trainer, Al Garver said:
You will still see a whale leaping out of the water.
We want to be able to demonstrate behaviours people would see in the wild with the killer whales and their abilities as a top predator in the sea.
The vast majority of behaviors people have seen in our shows will be very suitable for demonstrating that.
The park has seen a dramatic decline in visitors since the Blackfish documentary, featuring poor Tilikum, slammed the whales living quarters and captive conditions and claimed that their confinement increased aggression.
The film director, Gabriela Cowperthwaite said:
The trainers aren’t safe, and the whales aren’t happy.
They’re still just doing manic circles around concrete swimming pools.
Tilikum lived a horrible life. He lived an incredibly tragic life in captivity from the moment he was plucked from the ocean.
He experienced horrific pain. He caused unspeakable pain. At least now there’s no more suffering from him.
His purpose in some way was hopefully to turn his tragic life into a lesson. He can truly be an ambassador for what’s wrong with having animals in captivity.
Tilikum suffered a fatal lung infection and deteriorating health, after spending nearly all of his life in captivity, after being stolen from the ocean when he was a calf in the early 80s.
CEO and SeaWorld President, Joel Manby said:
Tilikum had, and will continue to have, a special place in the hearts of the SeaWorld family, as well as the millions of people all over the world that he inspired.
My heart goes out to our team who cared for him like family.
After Tilikum injured and drowned one of his trainers Dawn Brancheau, the park hit the headlines and director of Blackfish even admitted to being frightened of the powerful beast.
I was terrified of him.
I had nightmares about him.
It was only when I learned about his capture, his life in captivity, that I began to understand the depth of this tragedy on so many levels.
Blackfish revealed things about the park and Tilikum’s life that people didn’t know much about before, including the fact that he was separated from his mum and kept in a tiny pool for the rest of his life.
One of his former trainers, John Jett said:
Tilikum is a tragic figure.
I have often thought about the terror, confusion and stress that Tiili has been forced to endure.
After the orca killed his trainer Dawn, people really started to fear for what might happen to the tortured mammal.
John Hargrove, also a former trainer said:
We did feel sorry for Tilikum, because we knew his life would be drastically changed forever.
That he would become more isolated, with less contact and connection. We wanted him to be treated with dignity and respect on a daily basis, and not as a monster.
After the documentary was aired, the impact it had on SeaWorld’s reputation was huge and resulted in entertainers pulling out if its shows, falling profits and Southwest Airlines ending their 25-year-long relationship with the park.
In spring last year, the park’s CEO said that the public had changed their opinion on keeping killer whales in captivity and announced that they would be terminating their orca breeding programme.
We needed to move where society was moving.
Currently, SeaWorld still has 11 orcas, but is still facing intense pressure from animal rights activists.
The parks in Orlanda and San Antonio have promised that their killer whale shows will end by 2019 and that its park in Abu Dhabi will be developed without orcas.
While there is clearly still a way to go, this is a huge, positive step in the right direction.
It shows that Tilikum’s tragic life and indeed the death of his trainer, will not be in vain.