Today, SeaWorld San Diego will put on its final killer whale show. The once-popular routine made the marine life theme park a successful franchise before hobbling it in the wake of Blackfish, a 2013 documentary harshly critical of the company's treatment of orcas, particularly Tilikum, a whale involved in the tragic deaths of three different people. On Friday, SeaWorld announced that Tilikum had died in captivity at their Orlando facility, at the approximate age of 36. (For comparison, Granny, a famous orca living in the wild but presumed dead this week, was thought to be over 100 years old.)
But even amid outrage, a drop-off in audiences, and the news last month that the SeaWorld would be eliminating 320 jobs across their 12 parks, the company is changing its policies very slowly. The Orlando and San Antonio locations will continue their orca shows into 2019, and San Diego's planned "Orca Encounter" exhibit will feature the familiar sight of trainers cueing killer whales to leap out of the water and demonstrate other "behaviors." To say the infamous show is ending may be "a little overblown," according to former orca trainer and Seaworld vice president of zoological operations Al Garver.
Although SeaWorld frequently notes that it no longer captures orcas in the wild—and California has banned the practice of breeding them—the company still holds 22 killer whales in its various parks.