Kate on Conservation

SeaWorld: Behold, the great water circus!

sea world tilikum

“Connect with animals and explore nature to recognise the important role kids play in the future of our world.” It sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?

Why is it then, that something which claims to mix conservation, kids and fun has seen one part of Richard Branson’s Virgin conglomerate; Virgin America, sever all ties with it?

imageThe answer is one that I’ve grappled with trying to delve into in the best, most succinct, but also most thorough and truthful way for some time now.

On the 14th of October, Virgin America announced it would no longer include SeaWorld in its reward package options following a global online campaign from PETA, and only days earlier, Britain’s biggest and most media-dominating entertainment show; the X Factor, pulled an episode of its Xtra-Factor reflective supplement programme, after campaigners protested against airing footage of the contestants visiting a dolphinarium. It seems people are switching on to the plight of performing marina life – and with good reason, they’re not happy about it.

IMG_5796I was fortunate enough to be given the most enriched and positive education as a child from parents who never ‘pushed’ but always encouraged. When I was aged 9, during a holiday of a lifetime to Orlando, Florida – one which only came into being after the passing of my grandfather – my parents, knowing my love for animals and penchant for fast rides, took my brothers and I to SeaWorld.

IMG_5797Innocently, we clapped and cheered as we watched Shamu the Orca whale push his trainer elegantly through the tank, parting the water, like some Biblical force as the pair glided around the semi-circular length of the arena, splashing excited audiences as they went.

One of our holiday snaps
One of our holiday snaps

Fifteen years later, I sat in horror as I watched the acclaimed documentary, BlackFish, delve into the “amusement park”‘s dark history. And for those who haven’t seen it yet, believe me, it’s dark.

Blakfish_quad_Web_400_300_85The undeniable, barbaric brutality in which orca male Tilikum is torn from his mother; his home; and plunged into a dehabilitating life of punishment and psychiatric torture in the confinement of a tank, resonates something of a war prisoner. It’s painful viewing, but I’ve never believed in turning a blind eye – denying knowledge for one’s own ignorant comfort.

The power of this documentary is that it not only brings to light a truth long-suppressed, but it starts conversations. Although the film was first screened at Sundance Festival in January 2013, the topic seems to have gathered momentum the last few months, appearing on social media aplenty, and I’ve even purchased magazines of late solely on the pre-tense that they contain an article on Tilikum, or SeaWorld at large. photo.phpBut beyond the shocking story of BlackFish, there is something else that peaks my interest about the institution of SeaWorld. Earlier in the summer, I sat in artist Pollyanna Pickering’s beautiful garden alongside Born Free Foundation CEO Will Travers. We discussed some of my musings on the legacy of ‘Wildlife Warrior’ Steve Irwin, and he told me that in March this year Steve’s daughter, Bindi, was named as SeaWorld’s Youth Ambassador.

imageSecond generation ‘wildlife warrior’ Bindi, a Youth Ambassador for some glorified water circus that has ripped Orca’s from the wild and forced them to perform in tanks little bigger than the relative size of a large bathtub?

imageUnder the guise of ‘Generation Nature’, SeaWorld’s crisis control PR strategy is a convincing one to those innocently not ‘in the know’ – just like myself and my family in those afore mentioned moments of enjoying Shamu’s ‘splash zone’ in the Florida sunshine as a child.imageWill Travers, in his own blog, recently suggested that the further PR strategies employed by SeaWorld (namely expanding some of their ‘enclosures’) is about as effective as upgrading your bathtub – except this is a bathtub you have to live in, and can never get out of!

A world without SeaWorld?

A far cry from the blaring megaphones in SeaWorld’s jam-packed auditorium, waving my hands and cheering out loudly when “those from England” were asked to “make some noise”; an adult version of myself bobbed back and forth in a small boat to the rhythm of the ocean’s current, chatting to an American tourist about our home countries and what we loved about them, like how they transitioned so beautifully between the seasons. “Guys!”, a tour guide on our eight-person sea expedition called out, lowering their binoculars and pointing. And we saw her, calf in tow pass right beside the boat, making her incredible journey.


Sign the petition here: http://action.sumofus.org/a/seaworld-orcas-captivity-california-ban-blackfish/

Want to know more about the marine park and dolphinaria industry?

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2 thoughts on “SeaWorld: Behold, the great water circus!

  1. Your concern is admirable. However, the other side of the story is equally compelling. The conservation genetics research that is conducted here or in Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA Winter the Dolphin) is the only source of hope for future generations of this great set of species. They are also treated with lots of love, just like a family member. Thanks to human activity and oil pollution, the free species are dying out and if these organizations don’t take a stand, future generations will be denied to see another majestic set of species. For economic concerns, they resort to public shows but they hope to ingrain the conservation message to the public.

    1. There lots of statstics and research out there now that show zoos and aquriamsmain purpose is for entertainment and to make money. 5% of there profit which is not a lot goes to conservation charties, must of the animal in zoos are vunerable not endangered see icun red list. You learn has much about animals by studing them in there cages, has much has you do with men in there prison cells. Pop

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