Orca walkback: SeaWorld not ending all their killer whale shows after all

posted at 12:41 pm on November 10, 2015 by Jazz Shaw

Well, that didn’t take long at all. Just yesterday I wrote about the rather vaguely worded announcement from SeaWorld indicating that they would be ending their live killer whale shows at their parks. It engendered a bit of a debate in our comments section over how well off the beasts were in their tanks, but the fact that the company has been under a lot of pressure is clear. What was going to happen to the whales is a different question, and as soon as I heard the news I had immediate suspicions.

What the new “informative Orca experience” is going to be they’re not saying, but I assume it’s not having the killer whales jumping over sticks in a pool and splashing tourists…

Of course, if they don’t plan on releasing the whales I’m not sure how much better off they’re going to be, but perhaps if they can’t run these big circus shows with them they’ll eventually cut them loose. The sooner the better as far as I’m concerned.

Those suspicions, based on the rather ambiguous wording of the announcement, were well founded. Slate did some checking with representatives of SeaWorld and it sounds like not all that much is changing after all.

Some outlets greeted this news by declaring that SeaWorld was “ending” its killer whale shows. That’s really not the case…

[CEO Joel] Manby said that even if SeaWorld wins its challenge, it still might not proceed with Blue World, and that he believes the company can improve the whales’ conditions “for a lot less money.” The new orca extravaganza appears to be part of that effort.

What exactly will the more “natural” show entail? For starters, don’t expect to see a true-to-life replica of the Pacific Northwest or Arctic. They’ll take place in the same watery blue prisons the whales are presently swimming around in (in fact, Manby says the park has already tried versions of these more “educational” programs at night). Any capital expenditures to spruce up the tanks will be “minimal,” Manby said. Aside from that, the shows probably won’t involve whales lifting their trainers into the air on their muzzles. But there will be whale dancing. Just naturalistic whale dancing.

The CEO is also giving hints that they won’t be changing the whale shows notably at their facilities in Texas or Florida. In those parks they’ve run into far fewer protests than in San Diego, so it may just be business as usual. And as for the whales in California, it doesn’t sound like they’re going to be cut loose.

But could they be released at all? One reader claimed that they would just die in the wild anyway, but marine biology isn’t my background so I had to do some checking. The answer seems to be… it’s complicated. One animal protection group tracked the story of the actual Orca behind Free Willy and found that the animals can be returned to the wild sometimes, but it’s not as simple as just opening a gate to the Pacific.

After Free Willy, a powerful public campaign was established to return Keiko to the wild. Through the collaboration of environmental groups, the filmmakers and a private benefactor, Keiko was transferred to a huge sea pen in his native waters in Iceland in 1998. There, Keiko was returned to health, adapted to his new environment and taken out on ‘ocean walks’, where he was equipped with a satellite tag to track his movements as he followed a research boat. In July 2002, after some contact with wild orcas, Keiko began a five-week journey, alone, across the Atlantic, eventually arriving in Norway in good health. Although he never joined a wild orca pod, at his death in December 2003, Keiko was a free whale.

So it’s definitely possible, but there are many complicating factors which include how long the animal was in captivity and how much their natural skills have atrophied. Some need to learn to hunt for and consume wild fish if they were only hand fed their entire lives. They may also be too trusting of humans which can lead to all sorts of problems ranging from injury caused by encountering boat props to getting “too frisky” with humans on paddle boards who have no idea that it’s a “domesticated” killer whale knocking them into the bay.

It’s a tough call. If the whales can’t make it on the outside then I guess they may as well stay with SeaWorld and get a free meal. Still seems like a cramped and lousy environment for a huge ocean going creature, though.


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Comments

Sea World won’t be around 10 years from now. And all of those animals will suffer for it.

ConstantineXI on November 10, 2015 at 12:42 PM

Good.

Sanity prevails… for the moment.

mankai on November 10, 2015 at 12:44 PM

#BlackWhalesLivesMatter

HumpBot Salvation on November 10, 2015 at 12:46 PM

Yeah, but what about all those mistreated football players and coaches at Mizzou..?

d1carter on November 10, 2015 at 12:46 PM

Sea World will be around as long as they provide entertainment and joy to young patrons.

Joyless Liberals who are having a hissy-fit about yet another subject they do not understand will die young of self-induced heart attacks.

landlines on November 10, 2015 at 12:47 PM

PITA most hurt.. to bad.. PITA needs to just go away..

dougmva on November 10, 2015 at 12:48 PM

hahahahah, oh Jazz. something something rage boner something something

Jedditelol on November 10, 2015 at 12:49 PM

So they’re not getting rid of Claire McCaskill??

ToddPA on November 10, 2015 at 12:52 PM

It’s of a smack down to Peta. The tanks they were going to build were going to have currents and even beach in areas, massive below surface viewing areas all Alin an area to mimic a natural environment but California ………. instead, money will go to rides.

SeaWorld Texas will gain the most and Orlando as well. It will be interesting to see if those parks get the full Orca habitats that was planned to start at San Diego. This is just a small step in minimizing San Diego’s role in the whole company. The new guy gets it, premium hotels on site more rides. He did wonders with Herchend and will here.

TRB on November 10, 2015 at 12:56 PM

Trouble is this niceness to animals leads to things like allowing packs of coyotes 15 strong to chase people walking their dogs and attack the pets and sometimes the human. But that’s California

PattyJ on November 10, 2015 at 12:59 PM

This project is the one that is basically being abandoned in San Diego over legally suspect conditions put on it’s approval. I do hope San Antonio.and Orlando get the whole thing
http://blueworldproject.seaworld.com/

TRB on November 10, 2015 at 1:00 PM

Still seems like a cramped and lousy environment for a huge ocean going creature, though.

Meh. Better than ending up a beached pile of dead skin and bones.

whatcat on November 10, 2015 at 1:00 PM

I don’t know why not. Dolphins are much better and safer. Killer whales are SOBs. Even great white sharks fear them.

rickv404 on November 10, 2015 at 1:01 PM

Orca walkback

Shouldn’t that be “swimback”?

whatcat on November 10, 2015 at 1:06 PM

Yeah, but what about all those mistreated football players and coaches at Mizzou..?

Can they swim?

Cicero43 on November 10, 2015 at 1:07 PM

I’ve seen the Killer Whale show at Sea World and its impressive to watch. Sadly, the loss of it will hurt Killer Whales both at the park and in the wild more than it will help.

First, Sea World doesn’t acquire wild caught orcas. The majority of the whales in their 3 parks were bred in the parks or in other parks and traded for so they keep the gene pool as large as possible. Most of the whales have never been in the wild and while I agree that its sad they don’t get to swim for miles, I expect most would die quickly if released. The story of Keiko should note that the animal survived less than 2 years in the wild despite massive efforts to make sure the whale knew how to feed itself.

Second, Sea World does to research on marine animals and has often been one of the first groups called in to help rescue whales and dolphins that beach themselves. They can afford to help because of the profits from the parks and the knowledge they’ve gained over the years. They also have the facilities thanks to the fact that they keep extra tanks for isolating a sick/distressed whale. They can use these to help rehab animals that were hurt in the wild. That is going to be lost and I can tell you now that there isn’t a government agency in the western Hemisphere that will be able to replace the expertise and facilities that would be lost if/when Sea World decides its no longer profitable to keep Killer Whales and put them in shows.

Its very hard to deal with this kind of situation. Keeping animals confined is unfair to them, but at the same time without zoos, circuses and marine parks people will lose knowledge of animals and we get fake crises like the one involving Cecil the Lion where people were upset over something that shouldn’t have generated any real news.

mvargus on November 10, 2015 at 1:07 PM

Trouble is this niceness to animals leads to things like allowing packs of coyotes 15 strong to chase people walking their dogs and attack the pets and sometimes the human. But that’s California

PattyJ on November 10, 2015 at 12:59 PM

I don’t have a problem with that. Let progressives deal with the consequences of their actions.

GWB on November 10, 2015 at 1:10 PM

Get back to me about these whales living conditions when we stop killing 1.1 million unborn children a year.

NotCoach on November 10, 2015 at 1:11 PM

In July 2002, after some contact with wild orcas, Keiko began a five-week journey, alone, across the Atlantic, eventually arriving in Norway in good health. Although he never joined a wild orca pod, at his death in December 2003, Keiko was a free whale.

What if he had lived 10 more years in captivity, instead of just 1 as a “free whale”. No good, because, fairness.

LashRambo on November 10, 2015 at 1:14 PM

If the whales can’t make it on the outside then I guess they may as well stay with SeaWorld and get a free meal.

I hear killer whales taste like chicken. If you can’t make money off them, you might as well eat them.

earlgrey on November 10, 2015 at 1:14 PM

They need to end them.
I’m all for conservation-but it needs to be done a certain way.
What the Monterey Bay Aquarium has done for great whites(as in the sharks) has been perfect.
Long story-but the baby great whites aren’t named-and they don’t do tricks. As soon as they start hunting-at around 7 feet-they’re tagged and released.

Captive orcas with their bent dorsal fins is just wrong.

annoyinglittletwerp on November 10, 2015 at 1:16 PM

No Mouse or Duck costumes at Disneyland!

albill on November 10, 2015 at 1:16 PM

NotCoach on November 10, 2015 at 1:11 PM

I’m pro-life and pro-animal.
They’re not mutually exclusive views.

annoyinglittletwerp on November 10, 2015 at 1:18 PM

Stop whale watches off the coast!
Those boats are scaring the whales!

albill on November 10, 2015 at 1:20 PM

PITA = Pain In The A$$
PETA = People for the Ethical Treatment for Animals
One in the Same

SpudmanWP on November 10, 2015 at 1:25 PM

PITA most hurt.. to bad.. PITA needs to just go away..

dougmva on November 10, 2015 at 12:48 PM

.
No…… no no no! I kinda like PITA. PETA, on the other hand, is a quite different story.

ExpressoBold on November 10, 2015 at 1:27 PM

Quit your crying Jazz. Seaworld has done more to benefit the oceans and marine life than Left Wing environmental wackos could ever dream to do. Stop siding with lunatics.

Captain Kirock on November 10, 2015 at 1:30 PM

So it’s definitely possible, but there are many complicating factors which include how long the animal was in captivity and how much their natural skills have atrophied

Wow, you really ARE clueless on this, entirely.

If you had any notion of reading comprehension, you’d know that SeaWorld has not captured a live whale in 30 years. Their whales are all bred in captivity.

In other words – not going to be released into the wild – EVER.

deadrody on November 10, 2015 at 1:39 PM

It’s a simple matter of economics. The killer whale show is what makes the $69 or so single day admission worth it. Add to that ticket price the cost for a spouse and x number of kids and then subtract the killer whale show and you end up with….a lot of people who won’t be going to SeaWorld. Families want to see the whale show and it’s the only reason they’re willing to fork over such hefty sums to enter the park. If Sea World wants to go out of business, then by all means shut down the killer whale show.

I have seen the show in San Diego twice in my life. Once when I was six and once in my mid twenties. I am still blown away by what I saw and would gladly go to see it again. Can’t wait to take my kids, assuming the show is still on by the time they’re old enough!

Texas Zombie on November 10, 2015 at 1:40 PM

annoyinglittletwerp on November 10, 2015 at 1:16 PM

You can train a Great White? To do what? Eat?

dominigan on November 10, 2015 at 1:51 PM

What the new “informative Orca experience” is going to be they’re not saying, but I assume it’s not having the killer whales jumping over sticks in a pool and splashing tourists…

If they wanted to be realistic, the informative Orca experience would include the Sea World staff tossing a dozen cute baby seals into the tank, and letting the crowd watch the Orcas rip them to bits. It’s what Orcas do.

s1im on November 10, 2015 at 1:58 PM

Awright ! . . . . . . . .
.
.
Free INCARCERATE WILLY !

Send him to Sea World, and make him perform for people’s pleasure … : )
.
(No … I have no intention of going)

listens2glenn on November 10, 2015 at 2:07 PM

If they wanted to be realistic, the informative Orca experience would include the Sea World staff tossing a dozen cute baby seals into the tank, and letting the crowd watch the Orcas rip them to bits. It’s what Orcas do.

s1im on November 10, 2015 at 1:58 PM

Its called “The fur coat toss”.

BobMbx on November 10, 2015 at 2:08 PM

I hear Orca meat is yummy.

vnvet on November 10, 2015 at 2:09 PM

In other words – not going to be released into the wild – EVER.

deadrody on November 10, 2015 at 1:39 PM

They could open up a sushi bar, with daily specials on the Orca rice roll.

BobMbx on November 10, 2015 at 2:10 PM

annoyinglittletwerp on November 10, 2015 at 1:16 PM

.
You can train a Great White? To do what? Eat?
.
dominigan on November 10, 2015 at 1:51 PM

.
It’s all in how they eat.

listens2glenn on November 10, 2015 at 2:14 PM

SeaWorld should put out a call to all the over the top animal rights nuts and invite them to pay for new containment areas for the whales. Let the people who actually care foot the bill. I bet they’d get lots of donations from people like Jazz who care so much
/SARC

Free Indeed on November 10, 2015 at 2:15 PM

BREAKING:
SeaWorld releases surveillance video image; may have something to do with whale show cancellation
BobMbx on November 10, 2015 at 2:06 PM

LOL!!! Loved that.

Marcola on November 10, 2015 at 2:15 PM

Yeah, feeding them seals would be sweet, plus California is littered with them.

This is a hedge, pure and simple. The stipulation was they could do the Blue World project only if they couldn’t breed or relocate whales to and from there. Basically telling them they could do the project but the whales will be gone eventually with no way to replenish them. So Seaworld is saying that they are hedging until it’s ruled if coastal commission had the right to add those stipulations on. If they lose the whales there will supposedly suffer by not getting the massive new habitat and that money will go to coasters and other rides, if the stipulations are overturned they may go ahead with the plans. You must know SeaWorld has to jump through other hoops at San Diego. They have a height restriction on new attractions and some silly sound regulations added so the new rides have to be ultra silent as well. This can be done as Phantasialand in Germany and Alton Towers in England have to deal with heavy restrictions but it’s super expensive. The show will go on in Florida and Texas. I see a UAE location like the one that got canned in 08, They still have they whales on loan in Spain as well. You want to see the evolution of aquatic based animal theme parks look up Chimelong Ocean over in China. SeaWorld has to go bigger and better from the explosion of aquariums over the past 20 years in the states.

TRB on November 10, 2015 at 2:18 PM

BREAKING:

SeaWorld releases surveillance video image; may have something to do with whale show cancellation

BobMbx on November 10, 2015 at 2:06 PM

Heh. Almost expected a RickRoll.

itsspideyman on November 10, 2015 at 2:54 PM

Visitors did want them put in a more natural environment rather than doing tricks n stuff. You know what that means, right? Picture this, There is the children’s pool in SD that has been taken over by seals. I say they put a floating slippery platform at the center of the pool and feed the Orcas with those seals that way. Natural,right?

jake49 on November 10, 2015 at 2:55 PM

Jazz, wow.. just wow. It is not that complicated. Keiko had to be hand fed, he never did eat on hos own. The local pods did not take him back. He went to a village and let the locals ride him and play. His keepers had to take him for “walks” to keep him in shape. In the end, he died of pneumonia.

He did need to be rescued for that crap tank in Mexico. In reality, he should have stayed at the Oregon Coast Aquarium and he had some advantage, he was captured. The animals at Sea World have never seen the open water. They have no immune system for that and they have no knowledge of the predators or self defence skills. Example, the LA pod has developed a very good method of killing White Sharks as they are a serious threat. It has been developed over generations. Captive bred and raised orcas do not and it will take years to develop their own methods, they will not last that long. No, it is not complicated at all.

Mark

mailmars on November 10, 2015 at 2:57 PM

I believe I mentioned in yesterday’s post that the ‘closing’ did not apply to Texas and Florida. It wasn’t a ‘walk back’ since the CEO/Spokesperson already announced it.

What this article demonstrates is another in the long line of HA personnel not getting their facts straight that were commonly available to those who looked.

You know, basic research stuff.

The pox should be on all the houses associated with this: the naturalists who call them Orca’s, SeaWorld who, along with the naturalists, paint these creatures as mere puppies of the seas rather than the apex predator they are.

When you see the size and speed of these creatures, even in captivity (where with two strokes of the tail they casually zoom across the pool), you can’t help but marvel at them.

allmenroder on November 10, 2015 at 3:05 PM

BREAKING:

SeaWorld releases surveillance video image; may have something to do with whale show cancellation

BobMbx on November 10, 2015 at 2:06 PM

Hardy har har!

The real video is here.

corona79 on November 10, 2015 at 4:59 PM

Its very hard to deal with this kind of situation. Keeping animals confined is unfair to them, but at the same time without zoos, circuses and marine parks people will lose knowledge of animals and we get fake crises like the one involving Cecil the Lion where people were upset over something that shouldn’t have generated any real news.

mvargus on November 10, 2015 at 1:07 PM

Another analogy to Cecil is that the hunters are what actually keep the lions and other big game alive and healthy in the wild, because the locals and the countries hosting the preserves benefit economically and communally (safer and less crop devastation).
The people who go to zoos and “shows” fund research, rescue, and safety for animals still in the wild.

AesopFan on November 10, 2015 at 7:26 PM