Faced with declining ticket sales and intense pressure from animal activists, SeaWorld San Diego has finally pulled the plug on its theatrical killer whale show. The park, which has long shown orcas swimming and cavorting with trainers and leaping high out of the Shamu Stadium pool to the pleasure of drenched audiences, held its final performance on Sunday. SunSeaWorld Entertainment Inc.’s parks in Orlando and San Antonio will be ending their shows by 2019.
SeaWorld has suffered from plummeting ticket sales since the debut three years ago of “Blackfish,” a documentary that highlighted the poor living conditions of orcas. The theme park’s most famous orca, Tilikum, who starred in “Blackfish,” died on Friday in Orlando following a lung infection.
But don’t expect the parks to be draining their tanks. The 11 whales at SeaWorld San Diego will be part of a new exhibit called “Orca Encounter,” which will teach visitors about the whales and their natural behavior. It’s progress, but the jury’s still out on whether another captivity program will be an improvement.