SeaWorld San Diego Is Putting On Its Last Killer Whale Show

Photo: AP
Photo: AP

After years of public outcry and declining attendance over killer whale conditions at SeaWorld, the company’s San Diego facility announced that its final killer whale show will take place on Sunday, according to the Associated Press. There are 11 orcas at the park, ranging in age from 2 to 52 years old.

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The San Diego park will unveil a new attraction in the summer called “Orca Encounter,” which the company is peddling as an educational experience. However, vice president of zoological operations at the park, Al Garver, told the San Diego Union-Tribune on Saturday, “You will still see a whale leaping out of the water.” Only this time it will be to “demonstrate behaviors,” not merely to entertain customers with miserable bloodsport. No it’s not the same thing, not at all.

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Some fans of the show who wanted it to remain exactly as it was are sad now. According to the Tribune, one Facebook post from a SeaWorld fan reads, “If I had the money I’d run down and see this show for one last time before it’s gone forever. This transition is just sad.”

The news comes just days after the AP reported that Tilikum, an orca famous for its involvement in the deaths of three people, had died at SeaWorld’s Orlando park. Tilikum was the focus of the 2013 documentary Blackfish, which highlighted orcas’ abysmal quality of life at SeaWorld and their tendency to turn violent when mistreated in captivity.

SeaWorld has recently mandated progressive changes to several of its parks with regards to orcas. SeaWorld’s Orlando and San Antonio parks have said they will end their orca shows by 2019. The company’s forthcoming park in Abu Dhabi will be its first not to feature killer whales at at all.

contributing writer, nights

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DISCUSSION

I worked at the Vancouver Aquarium way back in the ‘60s when we were the very first facility to capture a “killer whale”. Skana, the whale was kept in a small public viewing tank that was about 30 feet long - a tank that was shared with 4 Pacific white sided dolphins. After the first weekend of sharing we came into work and one of the dolphins was dead, visible bite marks showing us how death occurred. Things progressed, the whale was trained to breach and just generally preen for the audience, until another stressful weekend when we arrived at work and Skana had attempted an escape by ramming her head into the underwater viewing window (a very small porthole type affair) until she was stuck. A tow truck had to be called to pull her free. It was an ugly event and one that we were told to lie about. Just as we were instructed to tell the public that we only ever had three dolphins we were told to inform the public the window had just broken. Aquariums and zoos may have had a purpose before easy access to well-researched documentaries but that time is long gone.