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Sea World: Shamu Show vs. Orca Encounter

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Ever since Blackfish, Sea World has lost a lot of financial footing and they’ve been trying to climb back up the ladder these past few years. Since the documentary gained traction and altered public opinion about animal entertainment, Sea World has implemented major branding changes to appease the public and the outcry for the humane treatment of animals. After just a year on the job, SeaWorld Entertainment CEO Joel Manby announced last March that not only would the company be phasing out the theatrical killer whale shows but it would also end all captive breeding of orcas, a decision that stunned even “Blackfish” director Gabriela Cowperthwaite. The show’s replacement, The Orca Encounter, was unveiled in May.

Orca Encounter, which will educate its audiences on how killer whales communicate, socialize, hunt and contribute to scientific research projects is different from the Shamu Show in that it is no longer marketed as an entertainment event, but rather a learning experience.

The difference now, according to SeaWorld behaviorists (the park’s preferred parlance for trainers), is all about context. Orca Encounter guests will still experience those awe-inducing moments of witnessing a multi-ton cetacean leap gracefully out of the pool, slap its tail onto the water’s surface, or land on its side, drenching the front rows of the audience with a gush of water. But now it will be a teachable moment and not just a theatrical one.

Instead of “putting on a show”, Orca Encounter attempts to teach a lesson. Before, the audience would passively watch as the trainers (now renamed “behaviorists”) would work with the huge mammals on tricks and leaps. Now, the show (or, rather, the “encounter”) focuses on teaching the audience about an Orca’s body language and how it is used for communication. The Orca Encounter is marketed as an experience that will allow you to dive deeper into the masterful hunting techniques and complex communication codes of Orcas, where you’ll learn about the role of family and importance of play, and leave with a deeper connection to one of the sea’s mightiest, most magnificent animals.

As much as some of SeaWorld’s most devoted fans have objected to the end of the iconic Shamu show, many others are eagerly anticipating the arrival of its replacement. Will you be visiting Sea World to take part in the experience of the Orca Encounter?

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Lauren lives in OB with her French bulldog, Elvis Presley. She loves laughter and the great outdoors. You can contact her at lauren@sdentertainer.com.

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