Former SeaWorld trainer John Hargroves, who spent 20 years training orcas at the popular park, is pulling the curtain back on the grim reality of what it was really like at SeaWorld.
According to Hargroves, officials at the famous marine park established a “Jurassic World” style of breeding that created aggressive hybrid killer whales. However, the park had “no idea” what they were creating at the time.
Hargroves, who starred in the bombshell documentary Black Fish, compared the marine attraction to the fictional events in Jurassic Park. As he describes, the park resorted to unconventional tactics to breed more orcas for its live shows that attract millions of visitors to the park every year.
According to Hargroves, after the orcas were captured from the Pacific, they were later bred with Icelandic killer whales. This irresponsible breeding created whales that would never survive in the wild simply because they don’t exist.
“It’s like Jurassic World. The whole premise of the movie is that they created hybrid dinosaurs,” he said. “That’s exactly what we did at SeaWorld.”
He added: “The main takeaway with creating a hybrid orca is that you truly have no idea what you’ve created because they don’t exist in nature. So all things are possible.”
In addition, sadly, SeaWorld orcas were forced to mate with family members due to poor planning. In 2007, a mother and son orca produced a calf. However, it’s unclear whether the two were able to mate or whether the mother was artificially inseminated.
SeaWorld forces animals to mate with family members, park left with devastating consequences
Three years later, another SeaWorld orca gave birth to a calf after she mated with her uncle. However, she instantly rejected the baby.
In 2016, California passed legislation that banned killer whale breeding in captivity. After, SeaWorld announced that it would stop its breeding programs across all three of its parks.
Sadly, breeding is still legal in countries like Japan and Russia, where killer whales perform in live shows.
Before the law passed, Jon Reilly, then president of SeaWorld San Diego, said that “a ban on breeding would sentence these animals to a slow extinction in our care.” SeaWorld later announced it was going in a “new direction,” but their remaining killer whales would stay at the park.
Since 1961, nearly 166 orcas have been held in captivity. According to Whales and Dolphin Conservation, SeaWorld holds 18 of those whales in its three parks across the country. Out of the 18 orcas at the park, six are hybrid whales and are known to be aggressive.
One hybrid orca went on to kill its trainer, Alexis Martinez. Later, SeaWorld officials sent another hybrid killer whale to a different park after it grabbed a trainer by the leg. Most of SeaWorld’s orcas were bred in captivity using the sperm of SeaWorld’s most famous orca Tilikum.