SeaWorld announced Thursday it will end its controversial orca whale breeding program. The whales currently residing at the amusement parks will be the last generation of orcas.
“SeaWorld has introduced more than 400 million guests to orcas, and we are proud of our part in contributing to the human understanding of these animals,” Joel Manby, president of SeaWorld Entertainment, wrote in a press release. “We’ve helped make orcas among the most beloved marine mammals on the planet. As society’s understanding of orcas continues to change, SeaWorld is changing with it. By making this the last generation of orcas in our care and reimagining how guests will experience these beautiful animals, we are fulfilling our mission of providing visitors to our parks with experiences that matter.”
SeaWorld has not collected an orca from the wild in 40 years, and many of its current whales were born in captivity. SeaWorld claims that since its remaining orcas have never lived in the wild, they could not survive in the open oceans.
The theme park’s treatment of orcas was highlighted in the 2013 documentary “Blackfish,” which focused on a series of violent incidents involving an orca named Tilikum. The film also questioned ethical practices of the theme park’s breeding program, such as the separation of calves from their mothers.
SeaWorld compiled 69 factual objections to the film and has called it “false and misleading.”
The documentary’s Twitter page responded to the announcement by tweeting “SeaWorld to end breeding program but still holds 29 orcas in captivity. Progress.”
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