CEO Offers $1 Million Toward Sanctuary, Asks SeaWorld To Free One Orca

The CEO of a baby product company wrote a letter pledging $1 million to kick-start a fund to create an orca ocean sanctuary and asking SeaWorld to release one of its whales to the facility.

Stephen Dunn, founder and CEO of Munchkin Inc., wrote a letter in October requesting that SeaWorld release Tilikum — the whale at the center of the 2013 documentary “Blackfish” — to the sanctuary once it’s complete. The letter, published by TMZ on Friday, stated that SeaWorld releasing Tilikum would be a condition of Dunn’s donation. But Dunn told The Huffington Post on Friday that his company will help fund a sanctuary regardless of what SeaWorld does.

“Munchkin will be kick-starting the building of an ocean sanctuary with $1 million regardless if SeaWorld releases Tilikum and would welcome the release of any captive whale from any marine amusement park,” Dunn said in an email. “Munchkin will work closely with the top orca marine biologists and conservation groups to ensure the coastal sanctuary can also serve as a rescue sanctuary for beached or hurt whales with the hope of returning them to the ocean.”

The company tied the offer to the release of Tilikum, who killed a trainer in 2010 after pulling her underwater, because “after the death of the trainer, Dawn Brancheau, Tilikum rarely appears in public and he reportedly is living in a very small tank in Orlando and being used for breeding purposes,” Dunn wrote. “Tilikum would greatly benefit from living out his remaining life in a much larger and more natural ocean habitat.”

The sanctuary would consist of “sea pens” in natural coastal waters, according to the October letter. Conservation experts estimate the sanctuary would cost an estimated $5 million to construct, with an annual operating cost of up to —> Read More