So….Sea World is apparently still a thing, despite the documentary of a couple of years ago Black Fish which did a very large amount of damage to its public image.
My wife actually won tickets to Sea World Orlando on a local radio station by sharing a story. Hers was the most horrible example and therefore won. One of the perks of being a teacher is that teachers get in for free. So that means our entire family would enter for free.
Now if you don’t know what Sea World is, I guess you have been living under a rock. Essentially it is a theme park in which sea animals are either on display or perform behaviors in a sequence as a fun and energetic show.
There seems to be two very different Sea Worlds that exist. The first is the Sea World which exists in the documentary “Black Fish.” For those that have not watched it, “Black Fish” is a documentary which is very critical of Sea World, particularly in their keeping and raising of Orcas, commonly called “Killer Whales.” It points to their “crown jewel” male and star of their breeding program Tilikum. According to the film, this whale is responsible the deaths of several individuals, in particular the rather high profile death of one of the Sea World trainers. The film interviews previous trainers as well as biologists and whale researchers in order to claim that the practice of keeping these animals is inhumane and is in fact abusive to the animal.
The second would be the Sea World that I believed in as a child, which is the Sea World which is trying to save the world. As a child I took several field trips and day trips to Sea World and I always left feeling inspired. They would always talk about recycling and caring for the environment. They would also speak all of their conservation effort. One attraction in particular is a haven for manatees. These creatures are rescued from boating accidents and are taken to Sea World for recovery. After being nursed back to health, they are released into the wild and are often tagged so that they can be tracked for scientific purposes. Other examples are plentiful, especially when visiting the parks. In some places of the park, videos are put on loops of the teams rescuing ocean wildlife, such as dolphins or sea turtles.
It was during one of the rides that I had a very powerful experience. It might seem silly, but since I was a kid, my favorite animal has been the penguin. I have loved many different species, but have always been partial to the rock-hopper penguin. So when the opportunity arrived to ride a penguin themed ride, I jumped at the chance.
I can remember the previous times that I had been to Sea World, that the penguin house had simply been a small pavilion with a small moving walkway which carried visitors past the simple habitat which was simply a window which showed a bunch of penguins huddled what seemed like 15-20 ft away.
This time, there was a ride, a cool ride! We got to experience the life of a juvenile penguin. At the very end, the car comes face to face with what seems like a solid wall of rock, which falls out of the way revealing a glass wall looking into the live penguin habitat. This is all that I thought I was going to get, but the ride kept moving…turned a corner to the debarkation area, which was really cold. After getting out of the ride car, and noticing that I was freezing cold, I looked up and saw more of the penguin habitat and only a half wall separating myself from the animal that I had loved since I was a young boy. Here were penguins, real live penguins! I suddenly was aware that they were close enough to touch! I started to feel freezing water droplets on my arm and noticed that there were several penguins who were interested in these new creatures standing before them, and were splashing them [us].
The experience was life changing! I believe in Sea World again. I have solidified my belief in conservation. I think that there is still some work to be done in zoology, however I believe in my heart that Sea World has their heart in the right place when it comes to all of the work that they are doing for the Conservation movement.
I can feel that my life is going to be moving in some different directions in the coming months and years. Please let me know your thoughts on this subject in the comments below. Also please join the conversation on our social media accounts. Please Like us on Facebook and Follow on Twitter.
Photo credit: Huffington Post (http://images.huffingtonpost.com/2013-11-04-Empire1-thumb.jpg)