The One Ocean orca show ended Sunday at SeaWorld San Diego as the company transitions toward a new mission of educating their audience about animal rescue and conservation.
The orca shows began in 1966 at the San Diego marine park. Shamu became SeaWorld’s biggest star and the shows expanded to their Orlando and San Antonio theme parks. The concept thrived until the 2013 movie Blackfish documented the life of the orca, Tilikum, and questioned whether keeping killer whales in captivity made them more aggressive. Tilikum, who died at SeaWorld Orlando Friday, was blamed for the death of three people.
The documentary caused animal welfare activists to campaign against SeaWorld’s care of the mammals. The theme park’s revenues decreased prompting SeaWorld to announce the end of its orca breeding program last March and a new mission of animal education.
“SeaWorld’s announcement that it’s ending its orca breeding program came too late for Tilikum, who was bred 21 times — and 11 of his offspring died before he did,” said Lisa Lange, senior vice president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). “Tilikum must be the last orca to die at a SeaWorld amusement park.”
Part of PETA’s motto reads, “animals are not ours to use for entertainment.” The nonprofit is still urging SeaWorld to release all its remaining animals and return them to nature or coastal sanctuaries, “where they could spend the rest of their lives in as natural a setting as possible, which, contrary to its greedy claims, is both reasonable and achievable.”
SeaWorld has not collected a whale from the wild in nearly 40 years. That means their 22 orcas are the last generation under human care. SeaWorld has 10 orcas in San Diego, six in San Antonio and six in Orlando.
The end of the One Ocean show is part of SeaWorld’s plan to inspire guests to help animals with shows that are more educational. Its replacement, Orca Encounter, is set to open this summer in San Diego as SeaWorld builds larger tanks for the orcas. The show will educate guests on the history, physical abilities and conservation steps necessary to ensure orcas will survive in the wild.
“Conservation, education and rescue rehabilitation of animals has always been our core mission and we’re just telling our story a little more than in the past,” said Suzanne Pelisson Beasley, SeaWorld’s corporate communications manager.
San Diego will be the first SeaWorld park to offer the revised orca shows. Parks in San Antonio and Orlando will follow in 2019. SeaWorld has hinted at plans to make changes to its dolphin encounters but no details have been released.