AWI Statement: SeaWorld's Lack of Transparency Failing Science, Conservation

Tuesday, August 8, 2017
Photo of Tilikum - by Naomi Rose

Washington, DC—The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) and other animal advocacy organizations issued an open letter today to Joel Manby, CEO of SeaWorld, requesting the release of Tilikum's necropsy (animal autopsy) report and his full veterinary records. Tilikum—the orca featured in the documentary Blackfishdied in January of a reported bacterial lung infection, but SeaWorld has refused to date to release these important data.

In response to SeaWorld’s lack of transparency, Dr. Naomi A. Rose, AWI marine mammal scientist, stated the following:

“SeaWorld’s reluctance directly contradicts Tilikum's import permit from 1992, which requires the submission of this information to federal agencies upon his death and the death of his progeny.

For months, AWI and its allies have been working in an effort to persuade SeaWorld to release this scientifically valuable information voluntarily, but to no avail. We have called upon federal agencies, met with SeaWorld officials, and written numerous letters and emails explaining SeaWorld’s obligations, both to the law and to science. Despite these efforts, SeaWorld continues to argue that this information is proprietary and will not be released.

On July 24, Kyara, the last orca to be born at a SeaWorld park and Tilikum’s granddaughter, died at only three months of age. She, too, apparently succumbed to a bacterial lung infection. SeaWorld maintained in both deaths that similar lung infections are common in wild orcas, a baseless claim, given that the prevalence of this cause of death among orcas in the wild is unknown. Since it has made this claim, however, SeaWorld should make necropsy results and clinical histories freely available to the scientific community, at minimum, to assist authorities and conservation biologists who rescue stranded whales and dolphins who may be suffering from similar ailments. SeaWorld’s failure to do so is inexplicable from a scientific and conservation perspective.

SeaWorld has an opportunity to do the right thing. Making this information publicly available would be good not only for science, but also for business. It would demonstrate that SeaWorld has nothing to hide and has truly turned a corner in its relationship with its orcas and the public who loves them. It would demonstrate that SeaWorld intends to foster a new era of transparency.”

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Media Contact:
Amey Owen, (202) 446-2128, amey@awionline.org