Sea World is keeping afloat somehow despite the recent sinking of big stars and celebrities. The famous and much desired tourist destination has seen a recent decline in attendance and enthusiasm from fans, due to the release of the documentary Blackfish. The famous orcas have taken a dive in ratings as Sea World struggles to stay above water.
Every parent waits for the chance to take their child to the local zoo or aquarium. Seeing firsthand the wonders of nature, the wild animals and sea creatures brings a learning and appreciation for the rare displays of the world. Sea World has been a key player in instilling amazement with seals, dolphins and killer whales, with their trained acts set to music and special effects.
Harboring wildlife from Africa or keeping sea creatures in captivity has raised awareness and speculation. Joan Embry of the San Diego Zoo and Jack Hanna, Director Emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, have defended the cause of displaying, training and putting wild animals in front of the public eye. They endorse the animals that can amuse and cause appreciation for nature’s bounty of creatures. Embry was once a regular on the Johnny Carson Show, bringing leopards, lizards and lemurs to the stage. As the audience gasped in fear and delight, the animals seem to entertain more than some of the guests. Hanna, is a big supporter of Sea World, taking his children and grandchildren to the park for traditional visits and defending the special care the animals are given.
Caregivers and trainers seem to adopt the animal they are in charge of for a time. Zoos and aquariums are well versed and equipped in the necessary food, supplements and activity levels an animal in captivity requires to live out a full life despite the bars and barriers that keep them enclosed for human enjoyment and entertainment.
The orcas at Sea World are highly trainable and are able to comprehend commands and do tricks easily. They do all that is required of them, enjoying many treats along the way. Sadly some animals have turned on their trainers, only pursuing an instinctive behavior they were born with. Although many animals can be housed in elaborate structures somewhat resembling their own habitat, the need for natural foraging and exercise is often compromised.
Zoos were established back in the late 1800’s, and have served as a way for families to connect with nature by viewing creatures in pens, cages and water environments. The idea caught on with expanded man-made habitats and salt water enclosures. Many a trainer has been attacked along the way, but most noteworthy are the ones that have occurred at Sea World.
Case in point is Tilikum, the killer whale and star of the show at Sea World, that has bred many offspring, and may be instilling the natural aggressiveness that comes with being an orca. Trained and applauded by many, the whale has been documented killing, dragging or otherwise causing the demise of three trainers. Unexpected events within the confines of a specifically designed stage and enclosure, have brought death to those who thought the beast was their friend. Animals sometimes act out their natural rage and can not always be depended on to be trained in a civil manner.
Supporters of animal rights have staged a protest and many entertainers have joined the cause against captivity of animals. Food, fun and a great show has recently been slowed down at Sea World, as they struggle to stay above the water that makes the dollar. Citing non-permission of her song, I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll in Sea World’s production of Shamu Rocks, Joan Jett has taken action. She has taken a stance on animal cruelty and captivity with many other celebrities and bands following. The usual fare at Sea World has seen big names disappear from their schedule, such as Trisha Yearwood, REO, Heart, Willie Nelson, Martina McBride, Cheap Trick and Bare Naked Ladies have cancelled their scheduled performances with the venue.
Although Sea World has rescued and rehabilitated thousands of animals, their own numbers seem to be dwindling for future revenue. As big names disappear and fade in the wake of the outcry, Sea World scrambles to make up the difference. Their promoted Bands, BBQ and Brew may need to employ a new type of creature that does not care about causes and issues.
Exhibition of animals, the circus and the shows involving wild-life are starting to give way to more animal activist groups such as PETA, as the years go by. The reality of keeping an animal penned up within a somewhat natural habitat or sea enclosure is not so entertaining anymore as people realize the true domain of their beloved furry friend or those from the ocean.
It is a debate that will most likely continue as we all love animals and yearn to see tigers, bears and whales at a glance. The balance between good care at zoos and aquariums run the risks of enjoyment and entrapment. Each person needs to decide what side they are on and act accordingly. Animals were designed for pleasure and food, much more than that is a bonus to the selfish acts of man beyond the natural environments of the Earth. Standing one’s ground in animal activism requires much diligence and respect for protecting rights and privileges beyond the human scope.
Editorial by Roanne H. FitzGibbon