Killer Whale shows have long been controversial. But now SeaWorld San Diego has announced that it is stopping shows involving Orcas after a number of years of falling attendance at the attraction as a result of animal rights worries.
The show featured killer whales leaping high out of the Shamu Stadium pool, working with their trainers. However, the last performance of the spectacle takes place this week. Instead, a new attraction will be unveiled which shows how killer whales, eat, communicate with each other and how they navigate, rather than expecting them to perform as they do currently. They will, however, still receive cues from their trainers, and they will still leap out of the water.
The decision follows the death of Tilikum, a 36 year old killer whale. He had been held in captivity for three years. Orcas in the wild tend to live for much longer. Al Garver, who is vice president of zoological operations said that SeaWorld still wanted to show people the sort of behaviours killer whales would exhibit in the wild.
Audience numbers at SeaWorld have fallen since a documentary three years ago called Blackfish brought conditions of captive orcas into question, with claims that they became more aggressive if they weren’t in the wild. The documentary concentrated on the life of Tilikum, and how the whale had led to the death of trainer Dawn Brancheau during a show six years ago. And, the movie director said she was not convinced that the new show would be any better for the whales than the previous show was. She claimed it was designed to make the audience feel better about attending SeaWorld to boost visitor numbers.
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.”