Updated 18 March: Loro Parque has released a statement, and I’d love to be able to give a clear statement on what they are saying, but I can’t. The statement is HERE (that’s the original and there’s a toggle top right to change to English). They say, in point form:
- Loro Parque respects Seaworld’s decisions because the orcas are theirs;
- Loro Parque is in Spain and the EU, and both insist that breeding is a right of all creatures and therefore breeding plans are required by law, a right and requirement that the park takes into account and respects;
- Loro Parque is fundamentally an education establishment, and will be incorporating changes following Seaworld’s guidelines;
- Loro Parque will not adopt any decision that would harm or jeopardize the orcas, and decisions will be implemented in compliance with EU legislation.
I have to say that it seems to me that Loro Parque is saying two contradictory things, that it will abide by SeaWorld’s no breeding programme and the EU’s insistence on the right to breed. I’ m open to suggestions!
Updated 8pm: Loro Parque says that it is surprised by SeaWorld’s announcement of the end of its breeding programme. The park has requested a meeting with SeaWorld to determine the future of the six Orcas that are in Tenerife as part of an agreement with the US company.
I have said before that I think Loro Parque is a marvellous environmental force for good, and it has certainly saved some species of birds from extinction. My own personal opinion is that the Orcas – and dolphins – were a wrong road for Loro Parque to take, and I hope that the park can recover its deserved reputation in the future … after it has ended its aquatic programmes.
Updated 17 March 2016: When SeaWorld made the announcement last November that it was to end its Orca Shows, conservationist and animal rights activists welcomed the move but said that what SeaWorld really needed to do was to end its Orca breeding programme. And now, it has. The current Orcas at SeaWorld parks will be “the last generation”, the company has said in an editorial in the Los Angeles Times.
Over to you, Loro Parque …
Original post 10 November 2015: The pressure has been building for years, and now California SeaWorld has condeded to conservation and animal protection societies’ demands to end Orca shows. The shows will be phased out, and one imagines, the breeding programme will also come to an end over time. The park’s visitor and financial numbers are said to have plummeted in the wake of the death of a trainer in 2010, repeated accusations of maltreatment, and the release of the film Blackfish in 2013, and the company says it will substitute its Orca shows with “a more natural experience”. This will start in 2017, and will actually still involve Orcas in tanks, but the current announcement is hugely significant because although not “the end”, it’s clearly the beginning of the end, even if Seaworld doesn’t acknowledge or realise it yet.
The news has a particular resonance in Tenerife since Orca shows are put on by Loro Parque, which has a clear Seaworld connection. Some will think it can surely now only be a matter of time before the Orcas leave Tenerife, while others have expressed concern over what such a departure would mean for Puerto de la Cruz. Unlike Seaworld, however, Loro Parque has a magnificent conservation record, particularly with birds, and an international Foundation which has brought some species back from the brink of extinction. It has options that Seaworld simply doesn’t have, and letting go of the controversial Orca shows, and the Orcas themselves, might restore a deserved reputation lately tarnished by a zooification that has brought in visitors and condemnation in pretty equal measure.