SeaWorld is putting an end to its killer whale shows. The CEO made that announcement Thursday. He also says the theme parks will stop breeding the animals.
The iconic Shamu show was once a childhood staple.
"Whenever they would splash you, that was obviously a big deal,” said Raymond Ramos, SXSW visitor.
Attitudes have shifted. Park attendance is down and the company is losing millions.
"For me it was less about the whales, but the people they were putting in danger every day and their lack of acknowledging that,” said Charles Rodarte, SXSW visitor.
On Thursday, SeaWorld President and CEO, Joel Manby, announced on Fox and Friends that the theatric shows are coming to an end. The theme parks will also stop breeding the animals.
"They will still be there, but it'll be much more educational and you'll learn about the plight of the killer whales in the wild as opposed to a theatrical show,” said Manby.
The company has partnered with the Humane Society of the United States to help execute the enhanced mission of education and conservation.
"More and more people are becoming uncomfortable with these very large and majestic animals under human care and a lot of factors have influenced that. I just felt we needed to move forward. The new millennial generation, they love animals. They love conservation. That's what we're about,” said Manby.
Humane Society of the United States President Wayne Pacelle attributes the change in part to the 2013 documentary Blackfish.
"There was such a controversy over the keeping of these animals. These are long lived animals. They live in family groups. They swim for tens of miles a day. And I think after Blackfish, we saw so many people question whether that was appropriate. Now there's good people that fall on both sides of that but I think there's no question that this was blocking a larger consideration.,” said Pacelle.
Locally, Stacy Sutton-Kerby of the Texas Humane Legislation Network applauds the company.
"It's our belief that wild animals, dangerous wild animals, they really thrive and do best in their own natural habitats often times when they are in unnatural habitats or used in entertainment venues their needs are not being met,” said Sutton-Kerby.
The whales will still be around for decades as Manby says they would not survive being released into the wild. There are currently 29 whales. San Antonio has five of them. The youngest in San Antonio is two.
The San Diego park will be the first to adapt the new natural encounter next year followed by San Antonio and Orlando in 2019.
SeaWorld has committed $50 million dollars over the next five years to advocate for an end to the commercial killing of whales and seals and an end to shark finning.
Read more about the program on SeaWorld Cares.