What a flop! SeaWorld’s new killer whale show doesn’t impress fans after theme park replaced controversial Shamu performance

May 29, 2017

SeaWorld San Diego has opened their Shamu-replacement show, but fans aren’t as impressed. 

The theme park decided to end its killer whale show in January after years of outcry and falling attendance since the 2013 documentary Blackfish criticized conditions of captive orcas.

Orca Encounter is the park’s new show and this time the whales won’t be ridden by trainers. 

Instead, it’s a 22-minute educational experience that explains how killer whales eat, communicate and navigate, though the animals still receive cues from trainers.

‘With Orca Encounter, our guests can still see these amazing whales up close but in a documentary-style presentation that is engaging while still focused on education and inspiration,’ SeaWorld San Diego said in a statement. 

The whales still breach, coming fully out of the water, as well as some other tricks, but trainers do not ride them and the show is more informative.

‘It’s pretty good, but they had a lot more impact when you had the trainers on the whale,’ one spectator told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Another said: ‘I learned a lot, but it wasn’t as exciting as the older shows.’ 

‘It’s nice,’ one person told the outlet. ‘I miss the old days when they were in the water, doing tricks and stuff. But that has gone away.’ 

The new show is still seeing opposition from PETA, who plans to lead a protest in front of SeaWorld Monday, according to the Union-Tribune.  

‘No matter how SeaWorld tries to dress this up, it is still the same kind of show they’ve been offering for years, with the same kinds of abuses taking place,’ PETA campaign specialist in Los Angeles Matt Bruce told the outlet. 

Orca Encounter is SeaWorld’s answer to the negative attention the park has been getting since the documentary Blackfish. 

The film chronicled the life of Tilikum, an orca that killed Dawn Brancheau, a SeaWorld trainer, during a performance in Orlando in 2010.

Brancheau was interacting with Tilikum before a live audience at SeaWorld Orlando when he pulled her from a platform by her hair and held her under the water.

An autopsy report said Brancheau drowned but also suffered severe trauma, including multiple fractures.

Her spinal cord was severed and she sustained fractures to her jawbone, ribs, and cervical vertebra.

Brancheau’s left arm had also been ripped off near the shoulder and her left elbow and knee were dislocated.

It was the first trainer SeaWorld had ever lost, and Brancheau’s death became a national sensation in a country that had been raised on the famous Shamu shows.

Tilikum was seen as a true killer of a whale for years after Brancheau’s death, until Blackfish offered an inside look at the whale’s lonely life in captivity.

The orca died in January just before SeaWorld San Diego announced their decision to end its show. 

The SeaWorld San Diego park has 11 orcas, ranging in age from two to 52 years old.

Under pressure from activists and faced with declining ticket sales, SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. announced last year it was ending its theatrical orca shows and breeding program.

Parks in Orlando and San Antonio will end their shows by 2019.

SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. announced last month that it was eliminating 320 jobs across its 12-park company.

The company also announced that it would help develop its first SeaWorld park without orcas, in Abu Dhabi.    

Source: Daily Mail.co.uk

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SeaWorld’s new orca show – informative and poignant

May 27, 2017

There’s lots to love about the new orca show at SeaWorld, San Diego.

Called ‘Orca Encounter’, the show lives up to its promises to provide educational content with stunning film and virtual reality displays which do an admirable job of teaching the basic biology and ecology of the whales. The orcas perform tricks that synchronize with the video, and the trainers’ low key presence is a welcome change from the glitzy days past.  Shamu, the lovable sea panda is gone, replaced with a more accurate portrayal – orcas are shown hunting seals and whales.

Of course there is no escaping the fact that the captive orcas are living very different lives than their wild counterparts, a poignant reminder that while SeaWorld has pledged that the orcas they now have will be the last they own they remain adamantly against allowing these whales to find their way to future ocean sanctuaries.  But up until a few years ago SeaWorld would never have decided to stop breeding the orcas either, which they now have done.

From the whales’ point of view it may be true that they are just learning new tricks for pieces of fish, but the process of learning is of itself stimulating for them.

Can SeaWorld provide enough enrichment in the barren tanks to improve the living conditions for the orcas enough to significantly impact the well-being of the whales and dolphins in their care going into the future?  Will they? After all, SeaWorld has made a commitment of 30 – 50 years to take care of the whales they have – whales who have nowhere else to go unless they are sold overseas or released into managed care in sanctuaries, neither of which is a viable option at this time. As a business, their bottom line is money, and maintaining the cetaceans is very expensive.

In large part what SeaWorld does going forward will be shaped by the response to the actions taken so far, and by SeaWorld’s ability to fulfill their promises to help wild marine animals navigate the changing ocean environment.

I hope the public response is positive, because look around – who else is stepping up to the plate? Environmental regulations are being stripped at an alarming pace, and the Marine Mammal Commission will effectively be terminated in October. There are few options to rescue and rehabilitate whales and dolphins at present, and rescue groups struggle to find funds. The trickle of money that they operate on may soon dry up.

Love ’em or not, SeaWorld may be our best option. At least until the next elections.

Below are two videos of the new show, the first focuses on the presentation, the second focuses on the whales themselves – together they appear to cover the show well.

To watch the videos visit the source at Seattle Pi.com

Orca Stranding Eastern Bay of Plenty

May 25, 2017

Orca Stranding Eastern Bay of Plenty

The Department of Conservation was notified of an orca stranding at Whangaparaoa, Cape Runaway in the Eastern Bay of Plenty around 2pm yesterday and were told four of the six Orca were already dead.

“We immediately contacted local resident, Joe Rua who we have worked with on previous strandings, who has extensive experience in this area, to establish what support was needed,” says Operations Manager Jade King-Hazel.

“At no stage did we ever say the area was too remote for DOC to attend. Our plan was always to get a response team into the area to work with locals on refloating the remaining Orca and working with hapū on burial of the dead animals.

DOC remained in contact with Mr Rua, and planned to fly a small response team by helicopter into the area, but weather conditions prevented this. Around 4pm DOC was notified of the successful refloating of the smaller of the two Orca still alive by local tangata whenua. The plan was to refloat the larger Orca on the high tide around 6am this morning.

“A DOC seven-person response team from Whakatane and Opotiki was briefed this morning at 5am. They were on the road to Whangaparaoa shortly after, however the remaining Orca had died overnight.

“Safety of staff and volunteers working on these operations is paramount and our standard operating procedure is to leave the animals during the hours of darkness, and return to try and refloat in daylight hours and on the high tide,” says Ms King-Hazel.

Ms King-Hazel was very appreciative of tangata whenua and local response.

“We are always overwhelmed at the fantastic support we get from the communities around the Coast, when it comes to these types of incidents. Joe with the support of others did a great job at rescuing the smaller animal late yesterday afternoon. We appreciate the ongoing support of logistics and tikanga shared with the Department’s team.

“We look forward to continuing to grow this relationship over the coming months and learn what further support we can give these communities to be empowered to help protect these majestic taonga.”

The Department is working with the local hapū and Te Rūnanga o Te Whānau ā Apanui in relation to plans for the burial of the dead Orca. DOC is also liaising with the New Zealand Orca Research Trust to establish what information and samples they may require.

Source: Scoop.co.nz

Ripples the killer whale returns to seas off Cape Schanck

May 24, 2017

RIPPLES is back.

The large male killer whale was spotted near Cape Schanck by a group of divers on a Red Boats charter on Saturday, May 20.

Red Boats owner Luke English said Ripples hung around for about 45 minutes, providing plenty of time for photos and video.

“It’s the third time I’ve seen (killer whales) in the past few years,” Mr English said.

“We do see some really special things in (Port Phillip) Bay and Western Port. We’re very lucky to live in such an incredible place.”

Killer Whales Australia manager David Donnelly said Ripples — or EA0005 as he is known in marine science circles — was right on schedule.

“He actually visited on exactly the same date two years ago,” Mr Donnelly said.

“We know a lot about this particular whale because he has visited a number of times and he is easily identified.

“His dorsal fin has really pronounced corrugation, which is why he has the nickname Ripples.

“We first photographed EA0005 in the bay in 2004 and we think he’s probably at least 13 years old now, but could be as old as 20.

“Killer whales have similar life spans to humans.”

Mr Donnelly said killer whales travelled in relatively large groups, with Ripples recently seen near Sydney in the company of up to nine other killer whales.

“When he was spotted last weekend he was in a group of about six to eight,” Mr Donnelly said.

He said it was unlikely the group would return this season.

“They don’t stick around for long, usually a few hours, but occasionally a few days. They are typically nomads.”

Source: Herald Sun.com

Community Comes Together to Rescue 5 Wild Orcas Who Were Stuck in Shallow Waters for 19 Days

An incredible orca rescue was carried out recently by Norwegian Orca Survey in a bay off of Brønnøysund, on the central coast of Norway. It is believed the animals were trapped in the bay for as long as nineteen days, but, fortunately, that is not the case anymore.

Before the operation, the team of rescuers spent a couple of days closely investigating the group of orcas. The rescue proved to be a big undertaking in which took part 30 boats, 16 kayaks, and more than 60 people! The ships followed the animals at a safe distance in order to help them find their way out of the bay.

The cooperation and collective effort had wonderful results. After five hours, the orcas finally passed the shallow strait and swam out into the open waters.

As Norwegian Orca Survey wrote on their Facebook page, this fantastic operation not only enabled the team to rescue the lives of five orcas but was also “an incredible human experience.” The team also thanks the local community of the area for their support and for taking part in the efforts to save the orcas.

To learn more about Norwegian Orca Survey, click here.

Source: One Green Planet.org

Will new killer whale encounter resurrect SeaWorld?

May 21, 2017

Music up. A symphonic score fills the former Shamu Stadium at SeaWorld, the tempo building suspense as footage of an icy landscape in Antarctica moves across a 140-foot wide screen.

“Get ready for a Keet fast swim,” a director forewarns the killer whale trainers.

A little off cue, the 8,000-pound orca appears, speeding along the perimeter of the pool as waves of water crash over the glass barrier where a crowd of guests would normally be watching the San Diego park’s new Orca Encounter. On the wide screen above, killer whales in the wild work in tandem to also manufacture waves, dislodging their prey — a lone seal perched on an ice floe.

“Keet is demonstrating this wave-making technique,” informs a trainer, “showing the complex and impressive hunting abilities killer whales have developed around the world.”

The hunting demo is but one of many whale behaviors seen in the wild that are being reenacted as the San Diego marine park prepares to debut the much anticipated Orca Encounter this Memorial Day weekend.

San Diego is the first of SeaWorld’s three namesake parks to introduce the new 22-minute-long killer whale experience, following the announcement last year that their Orlando-based parent company would be phasing out the Shamu shows, a fixture here for more than half a century.

The early rehearsals 10 days ago were still being perfected as the trainers practiced guiding the gargantuan orcas through movements meant to sync up with stunning National Geographic-style video displayed on a new infinity, high-definition screen. Also newly installed is a backdrop meant to mimic a rugged coastal inlet in the Pacific Northwest.

Union-Tribune)

“It’s still a work in progress,” reminds a SeaWorld staffer, watching the first complete run-through of the new attraction.

The same could be said of SeaWorld the company, which has struggled the last several years to regain its financial footing as it navigated one public relations crisis after another. While rival theme parks saw steady growth, SeaWorld’s stock fell sharply, revenues slowed and attendance in San Diego dropped amid the public’s rapidly changing sentiments about animal entertainment and care.

Call it the “Blackfish effect,” shorthand for the fallout from the repeated airing on CNN of the 2013 anti-captivity documentary Blackfish.” The film used as its centerpiece the now deceased killer whale, Tilikum, responsible for the 2010 death of SeaWorld Orlando trainer Dawn Brancheau.

After just a year on the job, SeaWorld Entertainment CEO Joel Manby announced last March that not only would the company be phasing out the theatrical killer whale shows but it would also end all captive breeding of orcas, a decision that stunned even “Blackfish” director Gabriela Cowperthwaite.

With its debut this Saturday, Orca Encounter marks a pivotal milestone in the reinvention of SeaWorld the brand.

The company boasts that this year it is opening $175 million worth of new attractions at a number of its 12 U.S. theme parks, representing one of the heftiest capital investments in more than 50 years.

In addition to Orca Encounter, which will educate its audiences on how killer whales communicate, socialize, hunt and contribute to scientific research projects, the San Diego park will unveil a new area, Ocean Explorer, themed around underwater exploration. The centerpiece of the family-oriented attraction will be Submarine Quest, a three-minute ride that transports riders in six-seat mini subs outfitted with interactive screens that rely on “smart play” technology developed just for SeaWorld.

And in a big change for the San Diego park, nightly summer fireworks will be no more, replaced with Electric Ocean, a new nighttime attraction that includes an illuminated parade and will start mid-June.

While it’s no Disney or Universal — Manby himself will acknowledge that — SeaWorld wants to prove that not only does it still genuinely care about the ocean and the animals that populate it but that it can once again entice sizable crowds with the help of cool rides showcasing the latest, cutting-edge technology.

“If we just had live entertainment, we couldn’t make it,” Manby stresses. “It’s important to have a mixed experience for the whole family and given there’s some risk on animals and entertainment, you have to diversify. Everything we do at our parks has to be fun and meaningful, but it has to be fun first or people won’t show up. And we know that the millennials and those coming behind them want that kind of company to be behind.”

To read the FULL STORY please visit the source at the San Diego Union Tribune.com

‘It just blows your mind’: Orca teaches calves to hunt in amazing video

May 19, 2017

A pod of killer whales put on quite a show for B.C. whale watchers and marine researchers just south of the border on Thursday.

A mother orca was spotted leaping and diving in the waters off the north side of San Juan Island in Washington State in front of its two young calves. The large orca was teaching its young how to hunt sea lions in an impressive demonstration caught on camera.

To the audible delight of spectators on a nearby whale-watching boat and a Vancouver research vessel, the orcas were in clear view as they hunted their prey. Traci Walter from Western Prince Whale Watching marvelled at the spectacle during a phone interview with CTV Vancouver on Thursday.

“It just blows your mind,” Walter said. “Nature’s top ocean predator doing what it does best.”

Meghan Moore, a research biologist with the Vancouver Aquarium, said the valuable teaching lesson is important for the species’ survival and exciting for scientists to witness first-hand.

“They’re really trying hard to tire out, injure, or even drown the sea lion before they go in for a final kill shot,” Moore said.

According to researchers who have been studying the orca population in the region, the pod is the same one captured in another video hunting a sea lion in the waters of Howe Sound, northwest of Vancouver, last month.

Walter said these recurring sightings likely mean food is abundant for transient killer whales, unlike the endangered southern resident orcas, which primarily feed on Chinook salmon.

“The marine mammal eaters are quite a stable population,” Walter said. “They have a lot of food to choose from. That certainly plays a role in why we’re seeing them so often.”

The mother orca and its calves spent approximately 15 to 20 minutes stalking and pursuing the sea lion before it managed to escape, according to Walter.

Despite losing out on a meal this time, researchers are confident the killer whales will have many more chances to feed in the plentiful waters off the B.C. coast.

To watch the video visit the source ctv news.ca

Salmon enhancement project in Sooke will feed hungry orcas

May 18, 2017

A unique salmon enhancement project on Vancouver Island aims to increase large adult Chinook salmon in the Juan De Fuca Strait to feed hungry south resident killer whales.

More than 200,000 healthy Chinook salmon smolts are currently being held in a temporary holding enclosure in the Sooke basin.

The “Feeding our Endangered Orcas” initiative is in its first year, but organizers say they hope to expand the number of salmon to one million within three years.

“If this works as a cookie cutter, we’re hoping that we’re able to multiply it throughout the province and change the precipitous decline curve that has befallen the Chinook salmon,” said Dan Kukat, owner of Spring Tide Victoria Whale Watching and former president of the Pacific Whale Watch Association.

Before the salmon are released they are bulked up to about double their weight.

“Unfortunately nature can’t offer the best of all natural conditions all the time and that’s where this project steps in to do that,” said Kukat. “[The salmon] will have had very high fertilization rate and they’ll have a very low mortality rate and a very low predation rate.”

Killer whales are picky eaters and prefer Chinook salmon to other fish.

“It’s got to do with the composition of the Chinook of the nutrients that are in it and some of the acids that are in it that the killer whales can’t resist,” Kukat added.

The fish are also tagged, which will allow scientists to gather important data like the salmon’s survival rate.

In 2016, researchers at the Center of Whale Research in Seattle said orcas, particularly mothers and their babies, are struggling because they don’t have enough food, which is a primary factor in the population’s decline.

Scientists said the best way to save the whales was to restore runs of salmon eaten by the killer whales. 

“We start bulking up these numbers, they’ll see a huge increase back into the river system and it’ll be … a win-win situation down the road for everybody,” Glen Varney, an organizer of the project.

Experts say it’s not only vital to helping the endangered orcas, but the initiative will also improve ecotourism as well as traditional and public fisheries.

“Feeding our Endangered Orcas” has been approved by Fisheries and Oceans Canada and is locally funded and operated. 

The number of orca whales in B.C. waters has declined in recent years. In 2016, seven southern resident killer whales died bringing the endangered population to 78.

Source: Vancouver Island.ctvnews.ca

Killer whales not planned for Dubai’s Marsa Al Arab

Picture of orcas for “illustration purposes only” says Dubai Holding

May 18, 2017

Concern over what looked like plans to introduce killer whales, or orcas, to Dubai’s new US$1.7 billion Marsa Al Arab development has been temporarily quelled after Dubai Holding stated the imagery had been used for “illustration purposes only”.

On Sunday May 14, the company announced huge plans for a four million square feet mega projectoff the coast of Umm Suqeim, with two islands to be constructed either side of the Burj Al Arab. Among the attractions planned for the project is a Marine Park – the first edutainment centre of its kind in the region, with a 1,000-capacity live theatre to showcase various elements of marine life.

In a statement to Time Out Dubai’s sister title, Arabian Business, Dubai Holding said: “The visuals are conceptual and are for representational purposes only.” It did not share any further details.

In an emailed statement to the title, Jason Baker, vice present of international campaigns for animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Asia, suggested the focus should be to build “an amazing water park, without having animals suffering as part of it”.

“PETA would be there to support the project. They can earn seven stars of compassion by keeping the animal attractions out of their plans.”

In an interview with Arabian Business earlier this month, Mohammed Al Zaabi, CEO of Miral Asset Management, said SeaWorld Abu Dhabi will not have orcas, with the park being a next-generation SeaWorld.

Source: Timeout Dubai.com

Another pod of killer whales spotted in Hawaiian waters

May 15, 2017

A family-owned tour company on the Big Island has become the latest group to make a rare whale sighting in Hawaiian waters.

Video sent to Hawaii News Now by Fair Wind Cruises shows a pod of rare killer whales swimming in waters off the South Kona coast.

The company says the video was taken during a ‘snorkel and barbecue’ cruise on Saturday morning.

The animals are typically associated with Hawaii, though they have been known to visit occassionally. Experts say only about 350 killer whales have been spotted in island waters, and they tend to be much smaller than those found in waters across the Pacific Northwest.

Source: Hawaii News Now.com