SeaWorld Making a Change

By Rochelle Chrzanowski, Leader of Student Voice

On Friday the 18th of March SeaWorld Orlando announced they would stop breeding and performing with orca whales in captivity. SeaWorld trains its animals to perform in front of spectators however, unlike Australia, the U.S. has allowed the captivity and training of orcas; which has seen much criticism towards SeaWorld in regards to animal rights and the safety of the trainers.

SeaWorld is a marine organisation set up to research, rehabilitate and conserve marine life however, a controversial part of this was the killer whale breeding program. The breeding of orcas caused several issues within the captive population including:

  • Breeding the Orca whales too young
  • Breeding Orca’s that have shown aggressive tendencies
  • Artificial insemination
  • Inbreeding and a high number of still births
  • Separation of mother and calves

The change itself was initiated after one orca, Tilikum, was diagnosed with a drug-resistant bacterial infection in his lungs which SeaWorld described as, “a disease which is chronic and progressive.”

Tilikum was particularly central to this argument, especially to the general public, after the release of the documentary Blackfish that shed a negative light on the mistreatment of Tilikum and other orcas within Orlando SeaWorld. It followed his journey after being captured and ripped away from his mother at a young age, spending 33 years in captivity. The film itself also exposes the following:

  • The death of several people including two of Tilikum’s Trainers
  • Punishment of Orcas for not performing
  • Small, ‘bath-tub’ sized enclosures they had to swim around in
  • The separation of mothers and calves

In an ABC News Article it shows that there have been 30 killer whales born in SeaWorld the first of which was in 1985 (two years after Tilikums capture).Prison-Definition-SeaWorld-sp2

While SeaWorld Orlando has proclaimed this is ‘the last generation of orcas at SeaWorld’ what happens the Orca’s still in captivity? Orca’s like Tilikum.

PETA Australia’s president suggested, “SeaWorld must open its tanks to ocean sanctuaries so these long-suffering animals can finally have some semblance of a life outside prison tanks.”

This is one option that could be explored to help not just orca whales, but captive marine animals in the future.

If you have any suggestions or questions on this topic please feel free to email me at or follow the links bellow.

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