NPR Takes A Look At SeaWorld’s Post-Blackfish Troubles

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Greg Allen, NPR’s Miami reporter got in touch earlier this week while reporting a story on SeaWorld’s efforts to rebound from its post-Blackfish malaise. Here’s the story Allen aired on All Things Considered this evening.

It’s interesting to note that SeaWorld seems to have decided that its head vet, Chris Dold, is SeaWorld’s most effective spokesperson (when I did my Shamu Stadium tour, in 2010, head trainer Kelley Flaherty-Clark was my guide.

Dold is definitely smooth, but he constructs a popular SeaWorld straw man when he says that Blackfish attacks SeaWorld’s staff as uncaring or abusive with SeaWorld’s killer whales. Quite the contrary. SeaWorld’s killer whales are worth millions and are the core of SeaWorld’s business, and therefore SeaWorld has every incentive to do everything it can to keep them healthy (and breeding). And I’ve always felt SeaWorld’s personnel, especially the trainers and Animal Care staff, are sincere in their efforts to care for the whales.

But when SeaWorld’s business interests conflict with the killer whales’ interests (such as the age or frequency with which females are bred; of mother-calf separations, for example) it is usually the business interests which prevail. And, more broadly, there is a limit to what can be achieved even with sincere efforts to care for the killer whales if the environment itself is inherently unsuitable. So I wouldn’t say SeaWorld’s people are abusive. I would say the killer whale entertainment business is abusive.

Everything Is Connected

Yes, it is. And NPR and TED Talks collaborate on a great hour of radio to explore what that means:

Every species plays a crucial role in our natural world. But when humans tinker with the equation, a chain reaction can cause entire ecosystems to break down. In this hour, TED speakers explain how everything is connected in nature, with some bold ideas about how we can restore the delicate balance and bring disappearing ecosystems back.

One scientist featured is Bernie Krause, whose recordings of the natural world are a powerful reminder of how much we can learn if we stop making so much noise and simply…listen. And how changes in natural soundscapes can tell us how much humans have changed, or destroyed, the underlying ecosystems.