Freed Willy

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© Irina Silverstrova / Shutterstock
Killer whale breeding programme to be stopped by SeaWorld.

SEAWORLD has announced that they are putting an end to their orca breeding programme. The American company which has numerous Sea World centres across Europe and one in Spain announced on March 17 that “Our customers visit marine parks, in part, to see orcas but a growing number of people think that orcas should not be in captivity by making this change. This is the latest generation of orcas in captivity andchanging the way our visitors willcontemplate these magnificent animals we are providing a really important experience.”

This is a resounding victory for campaigners who for many years have fought against the captivity of these magnificent creatures. 

The release of the documentary Black Fish, in 2013 started a massive wave of anti-captivity protestors highlighting the story of Tilikum, a captive killer whale that took the lives of several people, underscoring problems within the sea-park industry, man’s relationship to nature, and how little has been learned about these highly intelligent mammals. It became a “public relations nightmare” for SeaWorld. 

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It is not clear yet how this decision can affect the four orcas from SeaWorld found in Loro Parque in Santa Cruz de Tenerife which is the only place in Spain where shows are offered with these animals.

The marine park in the Canaries has six whales. Of these, four belong to the American company, another is Morgan, a killer whale that was found on the brink of death on the Dutch coast and moved to the park in the middle of a huge controversy, and a sixth was born in captivity.Asked about the matter, a company spokesman said they were studying the statement of SeaWorld.

Throughout the world there are 50 killer whales currently in captivity, some of which have been captured and 35 of which have been born in captivity. 

There have been calls for SeaWorld to now release their orcas into the wild like the story of Keiko, the real life whale that inspired the film Free Willy. Throughout their lives orcas live in families and hunt in groups, they are extremely intelligent and social animals although many of the captive orcas have not experienced life outside the pool. 

President of SeaWorld, Joel Manby, said in a statement: “Most of our orcas born at SeaWorld and who were born in freedom have spent most of their life in our parks.If werelease into the ocean, most likely they die.”

Black Fish director, Gabriela Cowperthwaite, said it was “a key moment”. “The fact that SeaWorld has decided toend the reproduction of captive orcas is a really profound change.”

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