5 min read

Broken Ties, Polar Bear Dies, And Audience Cries

<p>Heather Murphy</p>

Thursday, news broke that SeaWorld and Southwest Airlines were parting ways. This was cause for celebration for those who have been in quiet communications with Southwest Airlines and others who have petitioned them to request the end of their long-running relationship. However, SeaWorld has stated that the decision was mutual because they want to concentrate on growing markets in Latin America and Asia. With fewer animal protections in these countries, the split is not all good news for those animals who might be captured or shipped to fill the new market.

These broken ties are obviously a step in the right direction, but there is more work to be done. Virgin Holidays has claimed to remain dedicated to ocean conservation, yet even after engaging stakeholders in the conversation about cetaceans and tourism in June, they continue to sell trips to SeaWorld.

WWF has also come under fire in the past months after a community contributor on The Dodo exposed their relationship with SeaWorld. WWF states that they are mandated to protect and serve endangered animals in the wild, but animals in captivity falls outside of that protection. As an organization who claims to protect endangered animals it is interesting to find that Southern Resident Killer Whales, an endangered species due partially to SeaWorld's captures, are not even acknowledged on the WWF website.

It is encouraging to see major victories like the broken ties of Southwest Airlines, but this is only one step in the big picture. Continued pressure is needed to education others like @VirginHolidays and WWF">@WWF and sign the petitions to Richard Branson and WWF.

Later Thursday night, Orlando Sentinel reported that SeaWorld Orlando's last polar bear, Johnny, died unexpectedly. Following a physical exam under anesthesia, Johnny was suspected to have gone into cardiac arrest during recovery according to SeaWorld's attending vets. The park experienced another polar bear death last September when 18 year old Klondike died unexpectedly. We can only hope that SeaWorld comes to realize that polar bears don't belong in captivity, or in Florida. It's time for the polar bear enclosure to remain empty.

SeaWorld's #SeaofSurprises has experienced its challenges since the celebration started in March, but the biggest one might be yet to come. Part of their anniversary celebration includes new shows to replace those that have been running for a long time. The first of these new shows is Shamu's Celebration, the night show at Shamu Stadium replacing the older Shamu Rocks. The new show includes original music after artists such as Joan Jett asked them to stop using her music.

On August 10, SeaWorld will end their long-running Clyde and Seamore Take Pirate Island. Orlando Sentinel has predicted the possibility of losing loyal fans with this move. Losing fans while trying desperately to regain their appeal could potentially accelerate the natural death process of this struggling theme park.