SeaWorld will stop its breeding programme for orcas with immediate effect, said its CEO Joel Manby last week. This means that the orcas currently living at the theme park will be the last orcas to live there.
For years, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDC) and other environmental organisations have been advocating against SeaWorld for whales and dolphins not to be kept in captivity. The years of struggle against the million-dollar company is now bearing fruit and is bringing about a radical, but positive change, in the industry.
WDC expert Ulla Ludewig described the move as an important first step, albeit a first step on a long, hard and rocky road for the welfare of all marine animals still captive. She called for highly intelligent social animals like whales and dolphins not to be kept in captivity. For those orcas still living at the SeaWorld, their living conditions have to be improved.
Over the years, SeaWorld has invested much effort in breeding orcas using artificial insemination. In the wild, orcas are able to coordinate their hunting strategies, communicate with one another and foster strong family ties. In captivity, they die at a younger age than their counterparts in the wild, and in many cases, their offspring die a short time after birth or are rejected by the mothers.