After years of controversy, lawsuits, pressure from environmental groups, and an Oscar-winning film, SeaWorld will stop breeding captive killer whales immediately, the Orlando-based company announced Thursday.
SeaWorld is also replacing theatrical killer whale shows and is expected to introduce “new, inspiring natural orca encounters,” according to the Orlando Sentinel.
"As society's understanding of orcas continues to change, SeaWorld is changing with it," Joel Manby, president and CEO of SeaWorld Entertainment, said in a statement. "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 changes will start next year at SeaWorld’s park in San Diego. Orlando and San Antonio will follow in 2019.
“For as long as they live, the orcas at SeaWorld will stay in our parks [and] continue to receive the highest quality care, based on the latest advances in marine veterinary medicine, science and zoological best practices,” Manby said in an op-ed published in the Los Angeles Times.
Reaction in social media was swift, contagious, and worldwide. Here’s an ongoing sampling:
SeaWorld announced it is ending its controversial orca shows and breeding:https://t.co/qmcS6fJQ8y— Nat Geo Explorers (@NatGeoExplorers) March 17, 2016
Our Campaign wins Round 1. #SeaWorld has taken a step forward but more must come. We urge kind people everywhere to keep campaigning strong!— PETA (@peta) March 17, 2016
Really, really disappointed in #SeaWorld. You can't concede to the type of activists fighting them. Mistake from the start to try.— Taylor Strickland (@PWT101) March 17, 2016
» Captive breeding may be the last chance to save Florida's grasshopper sparrow, North America's most endangered bird. (Via Audubon)