Media attention over the past 18 months has been focused on SeaWorld and a film called Blackfish. Much of it, including Carl Hiaasen’s Aug. 17 column, SeaWorld’s troubles increase as public learns about plight of orcas, is inaccurate and does a disservice to the dedicated men and women who care for animals at SeaWorld.
I proudly represent the 1,500 zoological professionals who care for, study, train, and interpret the animals at SeaWorld. Our team shares a single focus: promoting the health and well-being of the animals that live within our parks and the thousands of orphaned, ill and injured animals that we rescue.
Our culture of caring for animals extends all the way to the very top of our organization. Even those who don’t work with animals every day feel that they work for an animal organization.
I have enjoyed much of Hiaasen’s writing over the years as he is a champion of Florida wildlife. I think he would be excited to learn that endangered Florida species like manatees and gopher tortoises are being nursed back to health at SeaWorld and prepared for a return to the wild.
We are investing millions of dollars, in addition to our hard work, in conservation efforts. We are conducting research that will improve biologists’ ability to reliably measure reproductive hormone levels from wild killer whales. Biologists in the Pacific Northwest are determining if endangered and threatened killer whales are eating enough and if they are pregnant using techniques validated by studying the whales in our parks. And, our whales are participating in hearing studies so we can better understand the impacts of anthropogenic sound on wild killer whales.
As a veterinary professional who has dedicated his life to ensuring the health of animals, I can unequivocally state that our whales, along with every other animal in our parks, are thriving. Over 80 percent of the whales and dolphins that live in our parks today were born right in these very same parks. Our world is nothing like the image portrayed by the film and unthinkingly reiterated by Hiaasen.
So if you watch Blackfish, do so with skepticism. The underlying agenda is focused not just on whales and dolphins, but the elimination of all zoological parks.
The guests who visit SeaWorld make our work possible. For five decades SeaWorld has provided an experience that millions of people cherish. We inspire children to dream of adventurous careers working with, and saving, the amazing animals of the sea. If there is a greater awareness of the fascinating animals of our oceans — and a greater sensitivity to the challenges they face in an increasingly imperiled world — surely even Hiaasen would acknowledge that some of the credit belongs to SeaWorld.
Christopher Dold, vice president, Veterinary Services, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, Orlando