SeaWorld’s Shamu show provides such substantial benefits to killer whales in the wild and to the entire ocean that it would be tragic to shut it down.
Killer whales in the wild face habitat and prey depletion, and the International Institute for Conservation of Nature is unable to get specific data on the numbers in the wild.
The SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. facilities contain the majority of killer whales in captivity with SeaWorld investing $70 million in their facilities in the last three years according to SeaWorld’s website.
Killer whales’ behavior places them in a uniquely vulnerable situation. As apex predators they have no natural predators, and damage to a species on their food chain undercuts their food supply. Meaning damage to the ocean is likely to impact these whales.
They are frequently exposed to humans due to their hunting range being in close proximity to the shoreline. With humans come pollutants, and killer whales have been found with dangerous levels of human-made pollutants from salmon consumption, according to the Institute of Ocean Sciences in Sydney.
For the killer whales in the Pacific Northeast, salmon makes up 96 percent of their diet, placing them in direct conflict with fishermen according to the National Marine fisheries service.
The killer whale is in peril along with the ocean. SeaWorld is a research leader on killer whales, according to its website. Its research uncovered critical information about whales’ metabolism, reproductive habits, communication and much more. This research is a valuable tool to help the killer whales.
SeaWorld has provided animal rescue services, according to its webpage, since 1963. For example, in 2000 Sea orld helped to save more than 20,000 oiled penguins.
SeaWorld stepped up for the Exxon Valdes oil spill, hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill. On top of that SeaWorld created a conservation foundation in 2003 to which they have donated $10 million.
There is a need for the services that SeaWorld provides, and shuttering the Shamu show would undercut those programs. If not money from SeaWorld then from where? We live in financially strapped times and funding for environmental protection and research needs everything it can get.
On top of that, the whales in captivity are treated humanely. According to their website, SeaWorld has not collected a killer whale from the wild in 35 years, the whales live as long as ones in the wild, and they are not separated from their mothers.
In getting people to attend the parks, SeaWorld not only gets funding for noble purposes. It fosters an emotional connection in attendees with the animals making them more likely to donate to philanthropies and to lobby politicians for environmental causes.