Thursday, March 17, 2016

SeaWorld Phasing out Killer Whales From All Theme Parks in Major Announcement

SeaWorld made some big announcements this morning, revealing changes that will see the eventual removal of killer whales from their theme parks, permanently.  The company has announced that the current generation of killer whales in their care will be the last, as they have ended all orca breeding programs as of today.

Historically speaking, the SeaWorld Parks started by heavily focusing on allowing guests to see and learn about killer whales, who at the time were somewhat feared and misunderstood, and eventually the public's opinion changed into love for the orcas.  The company's CEO, Joel Manby, wrote in an opinion piece to the L.A. Times that the company made these changes in a response "to the attitudinal change that we helped to create," bringing the public's view of killer whales full circle.

© SeaWorld Entertainment
With long lifespans of orcas taken into consideration, it will still possibly be decades before there are no killer whales at any SeaWorld Park.  With that in mind, SeaWorld still plans to take care of their animals, and phase out all theatrical shows featuring them.  The current theaters will present "new, inspiring, natural orca encounters" that feature programs for orca "enrichment, exercise and overall health."  These changes will start in 2017 in SeaWorld San Diego, followed by San Antonio and Orlando in 2019.

SeaWorld Entertainment is also partnering with the Humane Society of the United States to "educate its more than 20 million annual visitors on animal welfare and conservation issues through interpretative programs at the parks and expanded advocacy for wild whales, seals, and other marine creatures."  It has committed $50 million over 5 years toward becoming the "world's leading marine animal rescue organization."

So what does this mean for the future of the parks?  Well, from a ride perspective (we do love rides here at NPN, after all) it could be a very good thing.  In this story from the Tampa Bay Times Mr. Manby points out that the Busch Gardens parks are the company's most well-rounded, mixing animals and education with theming and thrill rides.  I'm not sure I'm ready to go as far as suggesting a name change for the SeaWorld Parks, but moving them more toward a Busch Gardens type of lineup isn't something I would fear - that's for sure.  Then again... maybe a west coast Busch Gardens would do well? 

Time will tell, but this shows more than ever before that Mr. Manby isn't afraid of making big changes to ensure the future of the company.