When I was in junior high, my family took a trip to see relatives in California. It was my first plane ride, my first trip to the beach, and my first Disney visit. It was also my first trip to SeaWorld in San Diego. I was always fascinated with animals, especially ones that a farm kid from Iowa didn't get to see very often. I was stunned and amazed as we sat and watched the killer whale performance that day. I couldn't believe what these beautiful creatures could be trained to do. As a kid, I didn't give much thought to anything else. Much has changed since that day and 2017. Yesterday was the final orca show at SeaWorld, and it's about time.

Shamu and other killer whales have been performing at SeaWorld since the 1960's. Recently, the park has come under intense scrutiny for their training practices, and several trainer deaths in the past decade put the whole program under a spotlight to harsh to escape. Last year the park agreed to no longer breed orcas in captivity. Instead of the live show, the parks will shift to an educational program aimed at orca activity and educating the public on the species. A good move, but is it enough?

Many people still want the 20 or so orcas still in captivity released. In a perfect world, I would agree. But animal experts say that animals that were held in captivity for long periods of time, especially ones born into it, would struggle and die if released into the wild. No one wants that. So let's treat them right. Let's learn all we can from them. And let's hope that WE learned something along the way too.


[via Gazette]