SeaWorld Entertainment has announced that the killer whales – or orcas – currently in the company’s care will be the last generation of orcas at SeaWorld.
The company will end all orca breeding as of today.
The move follows widespread criticism of SeaWorld’s activities, in particular the film Blackfish.
SeaWorld now plans to introduce new, natural orca encounters, rather than theatrical shows, as part of its on-going commitment to education, marine science research.
These programs will focus on orca enrichment, exercise, and overall health.
This change will start in its San Diego park next year, followed by San Antonio and then Orlando in 2019.
“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,” said Joel Manby, president, SeaWorld Entertainment.
“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 encounter these beautiful animals, we are fulfilling our mission of providing visitors to our parks with experiences that matter.”
The current population of orcas at SeaWorld – including one orca, Takara, that became pregnant last year – will live out their lives at the company’s park habitats.
Guests will be able to observe these orcas through the new educational encounters and in viewing areas within the existing habitats.
SeaWorld also restated its commitment not to collect marine mammals from the wild.
It has not collected an orca from the wild in nearly 40 years, and the orcas at SeaWorld were either born there or have spent almost their entire lives in human care.
It is argued by SeaWorld these orcas could not survive in oceans.