ORLANDO (CBSMiami/AP) — Known for its efforts at caring for animals in captivity and in the wild, SeaWorld has announced that they will be committing $1.5 million over three years for a new partnership with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation through the Killer Whale Research and Conservation Program.
The park says it is part of a $10 million pledge to fund research and conservation of killer whales in the wild. It will focus on increasing prey availability, improving habitat quality and strengthening management through research.
NFWF will seek to match that commitment with additional public and private dollars.
SeaWorld says the program is dedicated primarily to providing support to aid in the recovery of the endangered southern resident killer whale population found in the coastal waters of Washington State and surrounding areas.
Last year, SeaWorld Entertainment announced that it would build a new, larger environments in its theme parks for its killer whales, amid criticism over their treatment.
The 2013 documentary “Blackfish” suggested that captivity and SeaWorld’s treatment of the whales provokes violent behavior, which in turn has led to the death of trainers. “Blackfish” explores the death of veteran SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau, who was pulled off a platform and killed by a whale named Tilikum in 2010. The film argues that the whales become more aggressive toward humans and each other when they are kept in captivity.
Earlier this month, SeaWorld announced that attendance was up at it theme parks in the first three months of the year because of the earlier Easter holiday.
The company, based in Orlando, said attendance rose 5.6 percent from a year ago to $3.2 million in the first quarter. President and CEO Joel Manby said he remains “cautious” about attendance because of increasing competition in Orlando and because marketing to boost its reputation is “still in their early stages.” The company operates 11 theme parks around the country.
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