“It will not save the company,” PETA was quoted as saying in media reports.
“What could save it would be the recognition that it needs not to make larger tanks but to turn the orcas out in seaside sanctuaries so that they can feel and experience the ocean again, hear their families, and one day be reunited with them.
“A bigger prison is still a prison.”
On its youth-oriented site, a PETA2 blog said:
SeaWorld recently announced plans to expand the size of its prison pools and call them “realms” and “habitats.” HA—dumb, I know! It would take orcas more than 1,500 laps per day in the new tanks to come close to the distance they sometimes swim in the wild.
And a related website critical of SeaWorld said:
According to the “geniuses” in SeaWorld’s PR department, the new San Diego tank will measure 350 feet long — or just slightly longer than a football field. … Moreover, wild orcas dive to up to 1,000 feet. By contrast, their new cage will be just 50 feet deep. Ten orcas live at SeaWorld San Diego, measuring 20 to 30 feet long each. So these highly intelligent, social animals are each getting a space that is, to them, little more than a kiddie pool.
The commentary added that “instead of building bigger concrete boxes, SeaWorld needs to spend its millions on creating coastal sanctuaries, where the orcas would have a more natural and less stressful life and where they could feel the tides and waves; see, sense, and communicate with their wild relatives and other ocean animals; and engage in other natural behavior that they are now denied.”
On Friday, SeaWorld CEO Jim Atchison said:
“For 50 years, SeaWorld has transformed how the world views marine life. The unprecedented access to marine mammals that our parks provide has increased our knowledge of the ocean and inspired generations.
“Our new killer whale homes and research initiatives have just as bold a vision: to advance global understanding of these animals, to educate, and to inspire conservation efforts to protect killer whales in the wild.”
SeaWorld insists the new orca home will support the whales’ broad range of behaviors and “provide choices that can challenge the whales both physically and mentally.”
Among other things, it is planned to include a “fast water current” that allows whales to swim against moving water, thus functionally increasing speed and diversity.
“Innovative features focused on husbandry and animal care will offer SeaWorld’s animal health professionals and independent scientists unique access to the whales that can lead to a better understanding and care of the animals both in the parks and in the wild,” the company said.
The San Diego environment is expected to open to the public in 2018 with new killer whale homes to follow at SeaWorld Orlando and SeaWorld San Antonio.
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