On November 9, company representatives of SeaWorld San Diego announced that the orca shows will come to an end next year, and will be replaced with conservation shows.
In recent years SeaWorld has been shamed by the public for the way in which it treated captive whales. However, experts believe that the new approach of the company may in fact promote the protection of the species and foster people’s interest in this matter.
Ted Phillips, a marine biologist at Duke University who studied marine mammals and their mental capacities agrees with SeaWorld’s decision to encourage marine education, but disagrees with the company’s policies on animal captivity.
According to Phillips, the best way to get people to care about the environment is to expose them to the outdoors.
In 2013, the documentary called “Blackfish” shattered the image of SeaWorld. Blackfish is essentially an American documentary film which suggests that the treatment that captive orcas (killer whales) receive at SeaWorld sets off a violent behaviour in the killer whales.
Jennifer Roberts, a marine biologist at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science at the University of Miami is of opinion that – although a controversial topic – parks like SeaWorld can have their benefits. Speaking from personal experience, Roberts – who grew up in New Jersey – said that her first time at SeaWorld as a child sparked a lifelong interest in marine wildlife. As long as strict regulations are maintained, places like SeaWorld may inspire future conservationists, she added.
Roberts hopes that SeaWorld’s decision to revoke the orca shows will not affect the whales – which are highly social animals – and that they will still have opportunities to avoid boredom and stimulate their brains.
Simone Baumann-Pickering, an assistant researcher at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego said that SeaWorld’s rebranding efforts may have a positive outcome.
A bill that would ban breeding killer whales in captivity in the state of California was recently introduced by the California Coastal Commission. SeaWorld’s growth will be limited, if the bill becomes law. Roberts believes that the company should focus on having just a few well taken care of animals to get their message across.
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