SeaWorld will end orca shows at its San Diego park after visitors at the tourist attraction made it clear they prefer seeing killer whales act naturally rather than doing tricks, the company’s top executive said Monday.
CEO Joel Manby told investors the park — where the iconic “Shamu” show featuring killer whales doing flips and other stunts debuted decades ago — will offer a different kind of orca experience focusing on the animal’s natural setting and behaviors, starting in 2017.
Animal rights activists called the move a marketing gimmick and want the company to phase out holding any whales in captivity.
“An end to SeaWorld’s tawdry circus-style shows is inevitable and necessary, but it’s captivity that denies these far-ranging orcas everything that is natural and important to them,” said Jared Goodman of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. “This move is like no longer whipping lions in a circus act but keeping them locked inside cages for life.”
The Orlando-based company has seen revenue drop since the 2013 release of the documentary “Blackfish” that examined how orcas respond to captivity. It chronicles the case of Tilikum, a killer whale that caused the death of trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010 by pulling her into a pool at SeaWorld Orlando.