ORLANDO, Fla. – The killer whale performances that have been exciting visitors for years at SeaWorld and driving others to protest are coming to an end, according to a spokesperson for the company.
SeaWorld's website shows a new Orca Encounter will replace it Jan. 1, 2020.
WFTV spoke with some residents and tourists Tuesday who said they are happy with this change.
Some said they really enjoy seeing the whales up close but they don't think whales should be doing tricks.
The stage show starring SeaWorld's most well-known mascot has just one week left, according to officials.
"I would like to see more of their natural environment but not doing so much tricks,” said Orlando resident Marco Fuentes. “Just looking at the whales is a beautiful experience."
A SeaWorld spokesperson released a statement Tuesday saying: “SeaWorld is excited about our new Killer Whale educational presentation, Orca Encounter. Guests will learn about killer whales’ role in the ocean ecosystem, behaviors the animals exhibit in the wild, the importance of conservation to their habitat, and animal welfare practices at SeaWorld. This educational presentation reflects our company’s mission to inspire people and protect the animals and wild wonders of our world through education, research, animal rescue and conservation.”
A video on SeaWorld's website says Orca Encounter, which is already going in San Diego, displays the whales in more natural-looking habitats and showcases their behaviors in an educational way.
"So, them doing something that's natural to them and the trainers explaining, like, this is what the whale feels comfortable doing, this is what it would be like in the sea life, kind of brings awareness to what's going on in the world,” Fuentes said.
In 2010, SeaWorld stopped allowing trainers in the water because one of its orcas, Tilikum, took Orlando trainer Dawn Brancheau to the bottom of the pool by her hair, killing her.
SeaWorld’s park attendance also took a hit after the release of the 2013 documentary “Blackfish.”
SeaWorld ended its breeding program a few years ago and hasn’t pulled whales out of the wild in 40 years.
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