The Dark Era of Orca Shows is Ending

a wild killer whale in the waters off California
A wild killer whale off Los Angeles, California. Photograph by Maddalena Bearzi/Ocean Conservation Society under NOAA permit.

By Maddalena Bearzi

There is light at the end of the tunnel. As Tilikum, the captive killer whale at the focus of the documentary Blackfish, is approaching death from an untreatable drug-resistant lung infection, SeaWorld just announced it will end all orca breeding.

No more orcas will be kept in any of their new parks around the world. The remaining captive killer whales will be the last generation enclosed in the tanks of SeaWorld facilities.

The entertainment enterprise is also phasing out its killer whale theatrical shows at its three U.S. theme parks in favor of other types of exhibits emphasizing these animals’ natural behavior. As the cherry on top, SeaWorld let the public know about “a new partnership with the Humane Society of the United States to protect our oceans and the animals that call them home”. The company stated that is “committing to educating 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”.

This is not just good news; it’s a great step in the right direction for these complex, cognitive and wide-ranging wild animals that should have never been kept imprisoned in the first place (read here to know why). It is also a terrific example of how public pressure can induce real change when we truly care about an issue. This is something we all need to remember: we do have the power to change things if we decide to use it.

The horrific death of killer whale trainer Dawn Brancheau back in 2010 and the documentary Blackfish, featuring testimonies about these animals’ poor conditions in captivity, opened the curtain on Seaworld’s —> Read More