If you’ve seen the movie Blackfish, you might be outraged at the treatment of captive orcas and have a strong anti-SeaWorld sentiment. However, if you’ve never visited the park for yourself, I urge you to visit it before you finalize your opinion.
Blackfish does make some valid points, like the horrible way in which orcas were captured in the 1980s and the abuse suffered by Tilikum at his first home in Canada. Unfortunately, it also misrepresents and sensationalizes a lot of information.
I don’t support the capture of any more wild sea creatures for marine parks. However, I accept the reality that there are many currently in captivity who were caught back in the day. While releasing them into the wild is a romantic-sounding notion, it’s not at all realistic. That’s especially true when given that most orcas now were born in captivity and have spent their whole lives in the care of humans in a limited environment. Thus, I support SeaWorld Orlando as a place that cares for the animals in collection as well as possible in captivity and a park that puts some of its profits into important rescue work.
You may or may not agree with that viewpoint, but check out this list of five seasons to visit the park before you make your final judgment. Then, whatever you ultimately decide, you opinion will be based on facts from both sides rather than a single dramatized-to-maximize-outrage-and-profits movie.
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See orcas close up.
It would be lovely if everyone could go out to the Pacific to see orcas in the wild, but unfortunately most people don’t get that opportunity. Orlando is a major vacation destination, so it’s a lot more realistic to see them as part of a Central Florida vacation. Yes, Tilikum and Katina were wild caught, and the methods used back in the day were horrible, but the majority of the SeaWorld orcas were born in captivity. They were born to be ambassadors for their species, and they provide the opportunity for visitors to see a magnificent, intelligent sea creature up close.
See rescue work first-hand
SeaWorld Orlando has a rescue team on call 24/7 to help injured animals like dolphins, sea turtles, and manatees. Most are returned to their natural habitats, but some are too badly injured, so they stay at the park for life. You can see rescued manatees and sea turtles in the Turtle Trek attraction and even take a tour to see the rescue facilities firsthand.
Support the rescue work
Many activists are called for SeaWorld to stop its animal shows and switch over to rescue work only. Unfortunately, rescuing animals is a very expensive proposition. Without the trademark orcas and other animals to draw people in, there would be no financing to save other creatures. Talk to any rescue group about the difficulty raising funds. As an attraction, SeaWorld has a built-in revenue stream as long as visitors keep coming, and dozens of animals benefit every year.
See behind the scenes
SeaWorld Orlando has a number of backstage tours that allow you to see the animal habitats, training, and handling for yourself. Activists accuse the park of spreading misinformation and putting on a false front. I’ve done many of the tours, including the all-day Marine Mammal Keeper Experience, and even if you don’t want to believe what you’re told, you literally see the animal’s housing and other backstage areas for yourself. Yes, I agree that captive habitats are much smaller than the natural environment, but I also believe that SeaWorld takes the best possible care of the animals in its charge and puts a lot of effort into enrichment, and I didn’t feel like anything was being hidden during any tours I’ve taken.
See the reality for yourself
Blackfish is a documentary, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not slanted to present a certain viewpoint and to leave out facts that refute its view. I like to see both sides of an issue before I make a judgment, and I believe it’s unfair to wholeheartedly buy into what the movie says without seeing SeaWorld for yourself. You may still come away with an anti-captivity view, but at least it will be based on the evidence presented before your eyes, not by what someone else tells you to believe. You’ll also see Tilikum for yourself. Yes, he’s a huge orca in a relatively small habitat, but anyone who visits SeaWorld can easily see that he doesn’t live the sad, isolated life presented in the movie.