What Has SeaWorld Come To!


Kaleb Bielfeldt, Reporter/Writer

We’ve all been there, we saw the orcas fly and seals clap, we saw a walrus be a school principal and got to swim with animals that we never thought we could. We did this while Elmo and Big Bird ran a world of their own and entertained children. The rides had a symbol of every animal in the park and a water park that was always there for visitors to cool off after touring the park for hours. Although ever since the death of 40-year-old Dawn Brancheau who worked with the orca Tilikum and the release of the documentary Blackfish, attendance numbers have declined since 2013. News has changed from how a new life was born at SeaWorld to the newest ride or the youngest death of a baby orca named Amaya just last month. So in truth what has SeaWorld come to?

SeaWorld was founded on March 15, 1959 and the first park was opened in San Diego, 1964. The business was built for trying to save and rehabilitate animals to go back to the wild. They use those who couldn’t go back as ambassadors for their species to educate the general public. They also use the animals for entertainment by teaching them tricks and behaviors to entertain the crowd. As they taught them about the animals, they were watching. As more and more information leaks out about how they train them and the conditions they live in there’s one question left. Is SeaWorld really who they say they are? Now, yes they have saved over 31,000 marine lives over the years, but what I’m talking about is the big animals like the orcas, dolphins, pilot whales, and all the larger animals that are used for shows.

In recent years ex SeaWorld employees and trainers have said that they would dope the animals up on drugs to keep their mental health stable and would deprive them of food if they didn’t do a behavior that was wanted. They call this positive reinforcement. I call this lack of patience with the animal and wanting to force an animal into something it doesn’t want to do. Now, when we train our pets we give them treats when they do the behavior that we are trying to teach them, but even if they don’t do what was intended we still give them their meal at night and in the morning. The animals are so trained that when the park is closed they will swim in patterns and will get so bored that some animals bang their heads and bodies on the sides of the tanks.

So, how can we change this torment and mistreatment of these beautiful and intelligent animals? At this point the only logical solution is that marine theme parks and zoos build what scientists call a sea pen. It is an island surrounded by the ocean that uses nets to make pools for the animals to swim in. The only problem with this is that because those animals who were born into the environment they were would have to be brainwashed them so they could be mentally stable in that environment. The other problem with these is that the animals could potentially have harmful diseases that animals in the ocean haven’t been exposed to which could lead to a tragic decrease in numbers of marine life. All in all though marine theme parks and zoos in general need to figure out how to keep animals in captivity at the same time as keeping them safe and treating them right.