SeaWorld San Diego will start phasing out its traditional orca shows beginning in 2016, according to SeaWorld executives.
SeaWorld Entertainment described its upcoming replacement for the signature Shamu show as “an entirely new experience, designed to take place in a more natural setting.”
“We start everything by listening to our guests and evolving our shows to what we’re hearing, and so far that’s what we’ve been hearing in California; our guests want experiences that are more natural and experiences that look more natural in the environment,” SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby said, as reported by the San Diego Tribune.
Students at Harding have taken note of SeaWorld’s announcement and how it affects their experiences with the aquatic theme park. Junior Deanne Fontanel, a California native, said that SeaWorld San Diego used to be one of her favorite places to visit.
“At first I loved it, but I was about five years old so of course I thought it was awesome,” Fontanel said. “When I visited for my third time in high school I began to question how I really felt about this place.”
After researching the subject, Fontanel said she believes SeaWorld’s “natural” transition will be difficult to achieve, as the entire operation is dangerous for the orcas.
“It’s dangerous for the killer whales, because they weren’t created to be thrown into a little concrete bowl.” Fontanel said. “They were created to be out in the ocean and free. I think it’s our fault for taking them out of their environment and putting them in a stressful place where we watch them for our entertainment.”
Members of Harding’s Animal Science Association said the capture and keeping of orcas for entertainment is unnecessary. According to senior William Justus, SeaWorld keeps orcas purely for economic exploitation.
“There’s no reason for us to have any killer whales in captivity,” Justus said. “The wild populations are breeding, it is simply unnecessary.”
Trixie Pittman, assistant professor of science and biology, said there is a fine line between keeping wild animals captive for conservation or entertainment.
“The natural life history of these animals is not one to be confined in that way,” Pittman said. “These are the top predators – the wolves, if you will – of the ocean, and when they go from having the entire ocean to roam to being confined in such a tiny space, it becomes a rather sad situation.”
While SeaWorld Entertainment will begin “naturally” evolving its iconic Shamu show in San Diego, it is currently uncertain whether the other SeaWorld parks in Orlando and San Antonio will emulate the same changes.