After having sustained heavy damage from the controversy surrounding the captivity of killer whales, SeaWorld has announced a massive expansion that will see the size of its orca environment double. The company also plans to contribute an additional $10 million to research on the species and establish an independent advisory committee of scientists to oversee its orca program.
Called the Blue World Project, the new orca environment will cover 1.5 acres at 50 feet deep and 350 feet in length. The new habitat will contain over 10 million gallons of water, nearly double the 5.6 million in the current habitat. The new pool will also allow park visitors to view the orcas from a 40-foot-tall glass wall below the water line. The new habitat, which SeaWorld claims is the first of its kind, is expected to be completed by 2018.
“Through up-close and personal encounters, the new environment will transform how visitors experience killer whales,” Jim Atchison, chief executive officer and president of SeaWorld Entertainment, said in a statement. “Our guests will be able to walk alongside the whales as if they were at the shore, watch them interact at the depths found in the ocean, or a birds-eye view from above”.
The Orlando-based company announced the new habitat shortly after posting terrible second-quarter earnings that sent it stock plunging down more than 30%. It was then that the company acknowledged that the controversy surrounding its whales, which was caused by last year’s anti-captivity documentary “Blackfish”, had hurt park attendance. It’s no surprise then that SeaWorld is spend so much money on improving the conditions of its animals.
“This gives the investors and employees a signal that `we’re fighting back, we’re going to get our message out there’. They’re in a battle for their lives right now,” said Scott Smith, a professor at the University of South Carolina whose specialties include theme parks.
Read more about the story at Fox News.