Embattled SeaWorld to stop breeding killer whales

Thu Mar 17, 2016 4:23pm EDT
 
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By Marty Graham

SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - SeaWorld said on Thursday it will stop breeding killer whales in captivity, bowing to years of pressure from animal rights activists, but the orcas already at its three parks will continue performing as they live out their remaining years.

SeaWorld Entertainment Inc's SEAS.N decision came after it pledged in November to replace its signature "Shamu" killer whale shows in San Diego with modified presentations of the animals that focused on conservation.

"We don’t need all these theatrical 'tricks,'” SeaWorld President Joel Manby said on a conference call with reporters. Manby said the parks will use birth control to halt reproduction among its killer whales, also known as orcas.

SeaWorld, which operates marine parks in San Diego, Orlando and San Antonio, has a total of 29 killers whales, including six on loan to a park in Spain. Five of them were captured in the wild, but it has not caught orcas at sea for almost 40 years.

The parks have been criticized for their treatment of the captive marine mammals, with some activists seeking an end to public exhibition of killer whales altogether.

The criticism intensified after three orcas died at SeaWorld San Antonio within a six-month span in 2015. In a statement responding to the deaths, the company said: "We have the highest standard of care for all animals at our parks."

The life span of a killer whale in the wild is typically 30 years for males and 50 for females, with some females living as long as 100 years, according to the website of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. SeaWorld's oldest killer whale, Corky, is a 51-year-old female.

SeaWorld, whose shares rose 8.2 percent on Thursday, also said it will scrap plans for a $100 million project called "Blue World" to enlarge its 7-million-gallon orca habitat at SeaWorld San Diego.   Continued...

 
Young children get a close-up view of an Orca killer whale during a visit to the animal theme park SeaWorld in San Diego, California, in this file photo taken March 19, 2014. REUTERS/Mike Blake/Files