DIEGO (AP) — SeaWorld San Diego is ending its long-running killer whale
show after years of outcry and falling attendance prompted it to
renounce theatrical orca displays.
The show that featured killer
whales cavorting with trainers and leaping high out of the Shamu Stadium
pool will have its final performances on Sunday.
This summer, the
park will unveil a new attraction in the revamped pool. Orca Encounter
is being billed as an educational experience that will show how killer
whales eat, communicate and navigate.
The animals will still receive cues from trainers, however.
will still see a whale leaping out of the water," Al Garver, a former
orca trainer and vice president of zoological operations, told the San
Diego Union-Tribune (http://bit.ly/2i2Mxo4 ). "We want to be able to
demonstrate behaviors 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 11 orcas, ranging in age from 2 to 52 years old.
pressure from activists and faced with declining ticket sales, SeaWorld
Entertainment Inc. announced last year it was ending its theatrical
orca shows and breeding program.
Parks in Orlando and San Antonio will end their shows by 2019.
has seen attendance fall since the 2013 documentary "Blackfish"
criticized conditions of captive orcas, implying that confinement made
them more aggressive.
"Blackfish" chronicled the life of Tilikum, an orca that killed a SeaWorld trainer during a performance in Orlando in 2010.
The movie's director has told CBS that the new show was designed to make the audience feel better, not the animals.
trainers aren't safe, and the whales aren't happy," Gabriela
Cowperthwaite said. "They're still just doing manic circles around
concrete swimming pools."
SeaWorld reported Friday that Tilikum, who was believed to be about 36 years old and in poor health, had died in Orlando.
Entertainment Inc. announced last month that it was eliminating 320
jobs across its 12-park company. The company also announced that it
would help develop its first SeaWorld park without orcas, in Abu Dhabi.