For years, Arthur Frommer, a well-known budget travel writer, has promoted SeaWorld theme parks, particularly the one in Orlando. Not long ago, Frommer even said that, despite the death of Dawn Brancheau–the trainer who was attacked by a captive orca who had been involved in two other deaths–he would still recommend SeaWorld as a tourist attraction. But, recently, after receiving a letter from PETA’s Debbie Leahy, an expert on captive animal issues, Frommer acknowleged that he had been heedless of the treatment of captive marine mammals, saying “I am ashamed. I apologize for my former statements and I will no long recommend that tourists patronize the various SeaWold parks.”
His admission will surely propmt others, tourists and travel writers alike, to rethink their support of SeaWorld, helping to close the deadly theme park once and for all. As Leahy pointed out in her letter to Frommer, twenty-one orcas died in U.S. SeaWorld facilities between 1986 and 2008, and not one died of old age. They died from severe trauma, intestinal gangrene, acute hemorrhagic pneumonia, pulmonary abscesses, chronic kidney disease, chronic cardiovascular failure, septicemia, and influenza. SeaWorld parks have also been responsible for the deaths of numerous dolphins, including three who died last year at SeaWorld Discovery Cove in less than three weeks time.
Orcas and dolphins may swim up to 100 miles a day in the ocean, but in captivity, most are kept in 60-foot tanks. The chlorine and other harsh chemicals used to keep the tanks clean causes some dolphins to go blind and even makes their skin peel off. Captive marine mammals often develop ulcers from the stress of being gawked at for long periods of time each day. And because dolphins navigate by echolocation–bouncing sonar waves off other objects to determine shape, density, distance, and location–the reverberations from their own sonar bouncing off the tank walls drives some dolphins insane.
Not to be forgotten, the sea lions and other animals imprisoned at SeaWorld and other marine parks are confined far from their natural homes and colonies, and are also forced to do tricks simply for human amusement.
I’m ashamed to say that I visited SeaWorld and other marine parks and aquariums when I was younger, as many of you likely did too. I may have gone under the pretense of education, but, the truth was, I really wanted to have fun, not learn how to help marine mammals. I wouldn’t have learned that anyway. As Debbie Leahy says, a true appreciation of wildlife cannot come from looking at bored, frustrated animals trapped in chemically treated tanks, with every aspect of their existence regulated.
I can’t change the past, but I can admit, as Frommer has done, that I was once heedless of the treatment of captive marine animals, and encourage others never to patronize SeaWorld or other theme parks that exploit animals.
I’m looking forward to reading your comments below about Frommer’s blog, but please also take a moment to tell him what you think of his compassionate and responsible action. Please also send a message to SeaWorld officials, asking them to be big enough to admit that they’ve been wrong to keep marine mammals in tiny chlorine pools.