SeaWorld is turning 50 this Friday but instead of a big party, the park is getting more and more bad press.
Despite the theme parks’ desperate attempts to deny the facts exposed on the 2013 documentary ‘Blackfish’, the controversy around their captivity of orcas and the push to free them continues.
“If SeaWorld had evolved along with the science, they would not be in this position today,” stated Naomi Rose, a marine scientists who has been studying orcas for two decades.
According to Rose, when SeaWorld captured its first whale, Shamu, in 1965 not much was known about the mammals. As more research was done, it was clear they had a strong family bond, were highly intelligent and had a similar life expectancy as humans. At SeaWorld, however, they don’t live past their teens and are kept in tanks separated from their kin.
SeaWorld has denied all the allegations made against them claiming they have done a lot of good for the whales. While ‘Blackfish’ director, Gabriela Cowperthwaite, agrees that they’ve had “a long run and they’ve done some good things, now everyone knows the truth and it’s time for them to evolve.”
Since the documentary came out, it caused what has become known as the “Blackfish effect.” The PR nightmare has included major musical acts like Willie Nelson and Heart canceling their performances at the park, protestors rioting against their float at the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade and a bill in California even aiming to ban the use of orcas in performance shows.
SeaWorld claims their bottom line, however, hasn’t been affected. The parks, located in San Diego, Orlando and San Antonio, grossed a record $1.46 billion in 2013. A former SeaWorld trainer, thinks that investing that money back in the whales would be a good way to go, making bigger and more stimulating tanks for the animals.
“SeaWorld is making money. Shamu is an icon,” said Bridgitte Pirtle, who worked at the San Antonio park for 10 years. “Being able to turn more of that money from the animals and give it back to the animals, that’s the biggest opportunity SeaWorld has.”
Currently the park reinvests less than one percent of its profits back into the orcas.
Pretending to be oblivious to all the controversy, SeaWorld is doing a huge 18 month long celebration of its anniversary “full of prizes and surprises,” according to their website. Since no one but the San Diego mayor decided to celebrate them, they are throwing themselves a party.
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