Tuesday, November 10, 2015

People watch through glass as a killer whale swims by in a display tank at
SeaWorld in San Diego.
A SeaWorld executive says orca shows at the company"s
San Diego park will end by 2017.
(AP Photo/Chris Park, File)
By JULIE
WATSONMIKE SCHNEIDERThe Associated PressSAN DIEGO (AP) — SeaWorld will
end orca shows at its San Diego park after visitors at the tourist attraction
made it clear they prefer seeing killer whales act naturally rather than doing
tricks, the company"s top executive said Monday.CEO Joel Manby told investors
the park — where the iconic "Shamu" show featuring killer whales doing
flips and other stunts debuted decades ago — will offer a different
kind of orca experience focusing on the animal"s natural setting and
behaviors, starting in 2017.Animal rights activists called the move a
marketing gimmick and want the company to phase out holding any whales in
captivity."An end to SeaWorld"s tawdry circus-style shows is inevitable and
necessary, but it"s captivity that denies these far-ranging orcas everything
that is natural and important to them," said Jared Goodman of the People for
the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
"This move is like no longer whipping lions
in a circus act but keeping them locked inside cages for life."The Orlando,
Florida-based company has seen revenue drop since the 2013 release of the
documentary "Blackfish" that examined how orcas respond to captivity.
It
chronicles the case of Tilikum, a killer whale that caused the death of
trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010 by pulling her into a pool at SeaWorld
Orlando.Attendance has dropped the most at the San Diego location, and the
decision to end orca shows will be limited for now to that park, the original
home of Shamu, its first orca.The shows will continue at the other two
SeaWorld parks in San Antonio and Orlando.The killer whale shows at the Shamu
stadium in San Diego were the park"s main draw in the 1970s and helped build
SeaWorld as a top tourist attraction.
Trainers would ride the whales in the
giant pool before getting out and signaling for the orca to slap its tail in
the water to splash spectators in a "splash zone."After Brancheau"s death,
trainers stopped going in the water during the shows, but they continue to
swim with the killer whales while training them.Manby told investors Monday
that California customers want to see less theatrical production, so the new
attraction will have a strong conservation message."They want the orca
experience to be activities the whales do in the wild," Manby said.
"Things
they perceive as tricks, they don"t like as well."However, that"s not
"universal across our properties," he added.The news came days after SeaWorld
Entertainment Inc.
reported its third-quarter earnings missed Wall Street
expectations.SeaWorld earlier this year announced plans for a $100 million
expansion of the killer whale tanks in San Diego to boost attendance, but the
California Coastal Commission made approval of the project, dubbed "Blue
World," contingent on SeaWorld agreeing not to breed, transfer or sell any of
its captive orcas at the park.Manby called the ruling — which SeaWorld
plans to fight in court — a bad precedent for not only SeaWorld but all
zoos and aquariums.
He indicated to investors that the company might shelve
the San Diego project."We certainly know with the regulatory environment out
there that happened with orcas, and some of what happened in California, with
the reputation out there, I think we would be foolish if we didn"t look at
other options," Manby said.He announced that the company is considering adding
hotels at its parks, starting with San Diego, to attract overnight
visitors.SeaWorld has reached an agreement with a hotel developer to embark on
the exploratory phase.___Schneider reported from Orlando.A SeaWorld executive
says orca shows at the company's San Diego park will end by 2017.
CEO Joel
Manby told investors the park — where the iconic "Shamu" show featuring
killer whales doing flips and other stunts debuted decades ago — will offer
a different kind of orca experience focusing on the animal's natural setting
and behaviors, starting in 2017..A SeaWorld executive says orca shows at the
company's San Diego park will end by 2017.
CEO Joel Manby told investors the
park — where the iconic "Shamu" show featuring killer whales doing flips
and other stunts debuted decades ago — will offer a different kind of orca
experience focusing on the animal's natural setting and behaviors, starting
in 2017.

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