Pod of savage orcas tear live hammerhead shark to pieces in harrowing deep sea footage

March 31, 2017

The clip, shot by marine wildlife videographer Roberto Ochoa, shows the fearsome beasts toying with the stricken shark, already badly disfigured.

Communicating using a series of squeaks and clicks that reverberate around the ocean, the trio of killers take turns to munch a piece out of the shark.

Eventually, two of the whales swim away, leaving the sorry carcass of flesh to the last orca to devour in peace.

The video was filmed off the coast of the Galapagos Islands – a group of small islands off the west coast of Ecuador, South America.

To read the FULL article and watch VIDEO visit Daily Star.co.uk

PH, STB, Latham on Zhonghong’s $448 mln stake buy in SeaWorld

March 30, 2017

Paul Hastings has represented China’s Zhonghong Zhuoye Group in acquiring a 21 percent stake in SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment from Blackstone Group for about $448 million. Simpson Thacher & Bartlett and Latham & Watkins advised Blackstone, while Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison acted as co-counsel to Zhonghong.After the deal closes in the second quarter of 2017, SeaWorld will increase the size of its board to 11, including two executives from Zhonghong, which has investments in leisure and tourism. Meanwhile, Blackstone will no longer have any interests or board seats at the U.S.-based marine park operator. Blackstone, which purchased SeaWorld in 2009 for $2.3 billion, has been reducing its stake in the company since taking it public in 2013, reported Reuters. SeaWorld ceased dividend payments in September, after three years of falling revenues and a loss last year. As part of the deal, SeaWorld said it would provide advisory services and support for developing theme parks, water parks and family entertainment centres in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau, which would be operated by Zhonghong Holding, an affiliate of Zhonghong Group.  The Paul Hastings team was led by partners Robert Miller, Jia Yan, David Wang, Stephen Cooke, Scott Flicker and Stephen Harris. Partners Jeanette Chan, Chuck Googe, Claudine Meredith-Goujon oversaw the transaction for Paul, Weiss.

Source: Legal Business Online

$1 Million Donation from Baby Company Will Help Free SeaWorld’s Orcas For Good

March 30, 2017

Munchkin is dedicated to helping babies have the best start in life — and now the brand is working to give SeaWorld’s orcas a fresh start, too.

The company’s CEO Steve Dunn has pledged $1 million toward the building of a seaside sanctuary for the killer whales currently kept in SeaWorld’s parks. Since whales living in captivity aren’t capable of surviving in the wild, these sanctuaries would provide a home that resembles the orcas’ natural habitat, where the animals would be given expansive spaces to swim, the chance to interact with other whales and freedom from being forced to perform.

Dunn was motivated to donate the sum after watching the documentary Blackfish and learning more about the life of captive whales.

“I was really disturbed on a number of fronts when I watched the Blackfishdocumentary,” he says in the clip above. “About a month later I had an MRI, and I was claustrophobic. On  the way back into the office, it really dawned on me — that that’s how orcas must feel in captivity, in these concrete tanks.”

Dunn pledged his $1 million to the The Whale Sanctuary Project, which is working to build the first whale seaside sanctuary in North America. (He even removed the orca out Munchkin’s bath set as a further sign of solidarity.) And thanks to Dunn’s contribution, the first stage of site selection is complete: After surveying spots in Maine, British Columbia, Washington state and Nova Scotia for the perfect geographical and environmental fit, five potential sites for the sanctuary have already been identified. The Whale Sanctuary Project expects to announce the primary site in the fall. 

Thirty-nine orcas have died at SeaWorld, the most recent being controversial Blackfish subject Tilikum, who died in January. Dunn hopes through the work of Munchkin, The Whale Sanctuary Project, PETA and animal lovers, Tilikum will be the last orca to die in a tank.

Seaside sanctuary supporters can help this initiative by learning more about and donating to The Whale Sanctuary Project. Additionally, Munchkin.com is donating all of its profits from March 30, 2017, sales to The Whale Sanctuary Project to make sure SeaWorld’s whales finish their lives in the ocean.

Source: People.com

Wolves of the Sea: Killer Whales and the First Observed Predation on Beaked Whales in the Southern Hemisphere

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March 30, 2017

Killer whales. The name alone is enough to strike fear in even the steeliest of hearts. Also known as orcas, these apex predators are sometimes referred to as “wolves of the sea” and are found across the globe. Like wolves, Orcinus orca in the Northern Hemisphere are known to hunt in packs, teaming up to subdue larger prey and Orcas and their prey in the Northern Hemisphere have been well studied. However, until recently, little research has been done on the predatory tactics or prey of killer whales living off the Western coast of Australia.

In a recent study published in PLOS ONE, a team of researchers took a total of 141 field trips over the course of three years to the Bremer Sub-Basin off the southern coast of Western Australia to observe killer whales and their prey.

On February 25th 2014, the group struck lucky as a group of at least 20 killer whales was sighted off Bremer Bay, followed shortly after by a mesoplodont beaked whale (Mesoplodon spp.). Killer whales have been known to feed on beaked whales, but a direct attack had never been observed. What happened next reads like an opening to a horror movie, as approximately five killer whales (pictured above) flanked the beaked whale for over 67 minutes before the first attack occurred. The subsequent action was ferocious: the killer whales began ramming, striking, and biting the beaked whale. Occasionally, the killer whales would swim on top of the beaked whale and submerge it below the water, where more attacks apparently took place. Four minutes later, it was all over. The beaked whale was last sighted being pushed below the surface by three killer whales. The killer whales took short dives to the area where the beaked whale was last seen and blood was observed in the water.

Over the course of the three years out in the field the authors observed three more attacks on beaked whales. Each attack resembled the first observation in many ways, as seen in the pictures above. However, perhaps the most interesting common observation was the makeup of the killer whale group. Researchers observed adult females, sub-adult males and females, and juveniles in the immediate group, while the adult males kept their distance. This favoring of females and children is consistent with how killer whale prey elsewhere in the Northern hemisphere, however this study marks the first time this female-juvenile arrangement has been observed in the Southern hemisphere and possibly the first observed attack on a beaked whale.

Source: blogs.plos.org

China loves orca whale shows. But it may be making the same mistakes US parks did.

March 26, 2017

Marine parks are booming in China, including shows involving killer whales that have become increasingly unpopular in the U.S.

But animal rights activists say China hasn’t learned from the mistakes of SeaWorld and other U.S. marine parks, leaving the whales sick and overcrowded, USA Today reports.

China has 44 ocean theme parks, with 18 more sent to open soon. That’s a 20 percent increase in just two years. The number of animals in captivity doubled to nearly 500 between 2010 and 2015.

Naomi Rose, a marine mammal scientist with the Animal Welfare Institute, recently visited the parks. She said the conditions are putting the trainers in danger, not just the whales.

One show, entitled Chimelong Ocean Kingdom, shows trainers nuzzling with whales. Observers have noticed possible signs of skin infections where the trainers touch them. 

One breeding tank featured six whales packed inside, even though none of them were old enough to mate. 

In other shows, guests can pay to touch bottlenose dolphins. But since they’re not disinfected first, that can lead to diseases. Other experts noted signs of dolphins fighting due to cramped living quarters.

Killer whale shows were deemed illegal in California last September. The documentary “Blackfish” contributed to the shows’ declining popularity. Tilikum, the whale featured in “Blackfish,” died in January.

Mitchel Kalmanson, whose consulting firm has overseen deliveries of whales to China, says show organizers don’t respect the animals’ rights.

Source: circa.com

China embraces killer whale shows, even as SeaWorld ends them

March 26, 2017

Forget the oohs and aahs. The recent debut of killer whales at China’s largest aquarium here has sparked concerns worldwide that the country is repeating similar mistakes that plagued some U.S. marine parks.

China is experiencing a boom in marine parks as an increasing number of Chinese flock to watch the sea creatures perform. That also has resulted in overcrowded tanks, poor water quality and ignorance about marine mammal illnesses at the attractions.

Park operators are ignoring animal welfare and worker safety, according to animal rights activists.

“They are going through a learning curve that is not necessary and completely outdated — and they’re taking an enormous risk,” said Naomi Rose, marine mammal scientist with the Animal Welfare Institute in Washington, D.C., who recently visited some of China’s largest marine parks. “A trainer will be injured or killed sooner or later. It’d be sad because it’s totally avoidable.”

Between 2010 and 2015, China has seen the number of marine mammals held in captivity doubled to nearly 500, according to the alliance.

“In China, it isn’t that people don’t care but that they aren’t aware of the real situation,” said Keiko Chen, the alliance’s China-based outreach coordinator. “Once people are aware of the real situation behind the scene, they’d feel disgusted and walk away from this form of entertainment.”

China’s Ministry of Agriculture in 2013 established clear guidelines for marine parks, including requirements on water quality, pool size, record-keeping on animals and their care. But it’s unclear how officials ensure compliance, especially with rapid expansion.

A pod of five Chinese white dolphins, which arrived in Chimelong last fall from a shuttered park in Singapore, were living in a turbid tank carpeted with lime-green algae. The population of the dolphins, dubbed “pandas of the ocean,” has dwindled to less than 2,000 in recent years.

At feeding time, staff docent Candy Tang ended her talk to visitors on a hopeful note: “The more we know about these dolphins, the more we’ll cherish them.”

Source: USA Today.com

SeaWorld Stake, Long Held by Blackstone, Is Sold to Chinese Firm

March 24, 2017

Over seven years, the Blackstone Group nearly tripled its investment in SeaWorld, the home of Shamu and other killer whales.

But that home-run return came with a major headache: dealing with the repercussions of “Blackfish,” a searing documentary that castigated SeaWorld’s treatment of orca whales in captivity.

Now Blackstone is finally free of that burden. On Friday, the company sold its stake in SeaWorld to Zhonghong Group, a Chinese investment firm, for about $449 million. The deal will pave the way for SeaWorld to open parks in China.

The sale was a quiet end to an investment Blackstone had once been happy to promote. At onetime, the company let two SeaWorld penguins roam the halls of its stately Manhattan offices and shake appendages with its chief executive, Stephen A. Schwarzman.

But owning SeaWorld became a liability to its reputation after “Blackfish” debuted at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. The film, which was eventually picked up by CNN, offered an indictment of SeaWorld’s care of Tilikum, an orca that became one of the park’s biggest stars, but that also was involved in the deaths of three people, including his trainer.

Outrage over the film metastasized quickly into calls to prohibit keeping killer whales in captivity. Firms like Southwest Airlines severed ties to SeaWorld. The controversy eventually depressed attendance at SeaWorld’s theme parks, leading to the ouster of its chief executive in 2015.

Since then, SeaWorld has stopped breeding whales and announced plans to phase out its famous orca shows in favor of attractions without live animals.

Nevertheless, SeaWorld proved a winner for Blackstone financially. The firm’s final return amounted to about $1.7 billion, or 2.7 times its original investment, according to a person briefed on the matter, who was not authorized to speak publicly. That figure includes all of the stock Blackstone sold and the dividends it collected from the company.

SeaWorld said that Blackstone sold its remaining 19.5 million shares to Zhonghong at $23 each, or 26 percent more than the closing price Thursday.

Blackstone declined to comment on the stake sale.

It gained control of SeaWorld in 2009 when it bought Anheuser-Busch InBev’s theme parks. That deal made Blackstone — which at the time owned Universal Studios Orlando and the Madame Tussauds wax museum franchise — the country’s second-biggest theme park operator, behind Disney.

The 2009 deal also gave Blackstone control of parks like Busch Gardens and Sesame Place. But it was SeaWorld and its killer-whale attractions in Florida, Texas and California that were clearly the crown jewels.

“We are delighted to be investing in a company with such iconic brands, irreplaceable assets and strong growth prospects,” Michael Chae, a senior Blackstone executive, said at the time.

For several years, business was good. Profits in 2012 were four times what they were the previous year. Blackstone took SeaWorld publicin April of 2013, raising $702 million in the offering.

Then “Blackfish” hit.

SeaWorld shares have fallen nearly 46 percent since the initial offering. They closed up 4.7 percent Friday, at $18.13. Profits have fallen annually since 2012, leading to a $12.5 million loss last year.

Zhonghong is a conglomerate with holdings in real estate, leisure and tourism. Among its notable deals was its acquisition last year of the travel company Abercrombie & Kent.

“Zhonghong Group is making a significant, long-term investment in SeaWorld, reflecting their appreciation of the strength of our brand, our potential to grow the company and a shared commitment to protect wildlife and the environment,” Joel Manby, SeaWorld’s chief executive, said in a statement.

SeaWorld will advise Zhonghong on new parks in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau. In return, Zhonghong will gain two seats on SeaWorld’s board.

“We are delighted to engage with SeaWorld to bring this iconic, world-class family entertainment brand to China,” said Yoshikazu Maruyama, president of Zhonghong’s American holdings. “SeaWorld’s commitment to inspiring guests to protect animals and our oceans is increasingly relevant to people all around the world.”

Source: New York Times

Blackstone sells 21 pct stake in SeaWorld to China’s Zhonghong Zhuoye

March 24, 2017

China-based Zhonghong Zhuoye Group Co Ltd will buy Blackstone Group LP’s 21 percent stake in SeaWorld Entertainment Inc, the embattled U.S.-based marine park operator said on Friday.

SeaWorld said Zhonghong will buy the stake for $23 per share, a premium of nearly 33 percent to the stock’s close on Thursday.

Zhonghong – a diversified holding company for investments in real estate, leisure and tourism – will pay about $429 million for the stake, according to Reuters calculations.

SeaWorld faced criticism after the release of the 2013 documentary “Blackfish,” which depicted the captivity and public exhibition of killer whales as inherently cruel. The company said last year it would stop breeding killer whales in captivity. 

Source: Daily Mail.co.uk

Groundbreaking Bill to Permanently End Orca Captivity Gets Reintroduced in Congress

March 22, 2017

More people are questioning why socially complex and intelligent orcas are being forced to spend lifetimes in tanks. And more people are realizing that there are simply no improvements, in either facilities or husbandry practices, that can ever make keeping them in captivity acceptable.

Last year, we celebrated an epic victory when SeaWorld finally announced it would end its breeding program. The current orcas at its facilities will be the last generation in captivity, but animal advocates want to make sure no more will ever suffer the way they have.

Now, they’re applauding Rep. Adam Schiff for reintroducing the Orca Responsibility and Care Advancement (ORCA) Act – landmark legislation that would permanently ban keeping them in captivity in the U.S.

“Last year, SeaWorld made the voluntary and laudable decision to phase out orca captivity in its parks, but these changes need to be made permanent across the country not just at SeaWorld, but in all parks,” said Schiff. “The ORCA Act would ensure that this is the last generation of orcas who live in captivity, and we will appreciate these incredible creatures where they belong – in the wild.”

As lawmakers point out, even though wild captures haven’t taken place in U.S. waters since the 1970s, and no orcas have been imported from another country since 2001, permits could still technically be issued by the government for captures and imports to facilities looking to grow their population.

The ORCA Act would ban breeding, with or without the use of artificial insemination, live captures and the import or export of orcas for the purpose of public display.

Not only would it bring about an end to orca captivity in the U.S., it would send a strong message to other countries that continue to breed, confine and support live captures of orcas that these are no longer accepted practices that should be allowed or tolerated.

We can’t undo what we’ve done to the orcas who have been subjected to the horrors of wild-captures, who have been separated from family members, and who have been confined to tanks and forced to perform, but we can certainly make a future where we respect them and protect them in their rightful place in the wild.

According to a statement, the bill already has 15 co-sponsors and the support of organizations including the Animal Welfare Institute, Humane Society Legislative Fund, Born Free USA and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, but it’s going to need our support.

TAKE ACTION!

Please sign and share the petition asking Congress to pass the Orca Responsibility and Care Advancement Act.

Source: care2.com