SeaWorld Orlando to change killer whale show in 2020

The final day for 'One Ocean' will be Dec. 31

Killer whale Tilikum, right, watches as SeaWorld Orlando trainers take a break during a training session at the theme park's Shamu Stadium in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)

ORLANDO, Fla. — SeaWorld Orlando says it will begin 2020 by changing its centerpiece killer whale show.

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The Orlando Sentinel reports the theme park will replace its “One Ocean” show with a program called “Orca Encounter." The new show is about killer whales’ role in the ocean ecosystem, behaviors the animals exhibit in the wild, the importance of conservation to their habitat and animal welfare practices at SeaWorld.

“One Ocean” revolved around a conservation theme. It was SeaWorld’s first show that did not include trainers in the water with the killer whales. The changes came after the 2010 death of SeaWorld Orlando trainer Dawn Brancheau, who was battered and drowned by a killer whale.

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In 2013, the documentary “Blackfish” was critical of SeaWorld policies. Animal rights group PETA has pushed for the company to relocate its animals to coastal sanctuaries.

The final day for “One Ocean,” which debuted at the park in April 2011, will be Dec. 31. “Orca Encounter” will take over Jan. 1 at Shamu Stadium.

Sergio Rivera took over as SeaWorld Parks CEO last month. That announcement coincided with third-quarter earnings for the company that showed a nearly 3 percent attendance drop for the quarter, some of which was attributed to the threat of Hurricane Dorian.

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The incoming show is “the continuing evolution” of SeaWorld shows, Dennis Speigel, CEO of International Theme Park Services, told the newspaper.

“They’ve got a new regime now, and I’m sure they’ve looked at this and studied it and said this will help put us back on track and this is the wave, literally, of the future," he said.

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The attractions industry continues to build thrill rides, but there’s also growing interest in conservation issues, Speigel said.

“There are a lot of areas particularly globally ... that are looking at the natural, educational experiences more of the come and explain, show and tell,” he said.