ORLANDO, Fla. – SeaWorld announced that the killer whales currently in the company’s care will be the last generation of orcas at its parks, SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. announced Thursday.
The company said it will end all orca breeding, effective immediately.
SeaWorld also said it will introduce new, natural orca encounters, rather than theatrical shows, as part of its commitment to education, marine science research and rescue of marine animals.
The changes will start in its San Diego park next year, followed by San Antonio and then Orlando in 2019.
"SeaWorld has introduced more than 400 million guests to orcas, and we are proud of our part in contributing to the human understanding of these animals," said Joel Manby, president and chief executive officer of SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. "As society’s understanding of orcas continues to change, SeaWorld is changing with it. By making this the last generation of orcas in our care and re-imagining how guests will encounter these beautiful animals, we are fulfilling our mission of providing visitors to our parks with experiences that matter."
The current population of orcas at SeaWorld, including an orca named Takara that became pregnant last year, will live out their lives at the company’s park habitats. Guests will be able to observe the orcas through new educational encounters and in viewing areas within the existing habitats.
SeaWorld said It has not collected an orca from the wild in nearly 40 years, and the orcas at SeaWorld were either born there or have spent almost their entire lives in human care. The park said the whales in its care could not survive in oceans.
“SeaWorld’s commitment to end breeding of orcas is a long-held goal of many animal advocacy organizations, and we commend the company for making this game-changing commitment,” said Wayne Pacelle, Humane Society of the United States President, and CEO. “Today we turn a corner, working together to achieve solutions on a wide set of animal issues including sunsetting the use of orcas at existing facilities; maximizing SeaWorld’s focus on rescue, rehabilitation and advocacy for marine mammals in the wild; and sourcing food for animals and customers from humane and sustainable sources, including cage-free eggs and crate-free pork.”
Below is an image of an artist rendering of the new SeaWorld Orca Encounter: