SeaWorld Ends Public Feeding Dolphin Program

Don’t worry, you can still take pictures and pet the dolphins—at your own risk.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

SeaWorld, the subject of the 2013 CNN documentary Blackfish, has received heavy criticism from advocacy groups and legislators for the treatment of its orcas, also known as killer whales. The treatment of its other marine creatures has often been overshadowed by the controversy surrounding Tilikum, the subject of the documentary. However, according to ABC, SeaWorld Orlando is ending its policy of allowing people to directly feed the dolphins, the most recent change in the company’s practices on how animals and humans can interact.

The Guardian reports that previously SeaWorld visitors could buy small trays of fish for $7 and feed the dolphins directly. Starting next month, visitors can instead purchase $15 packages that allow them to touch and take pictures with dolphins under a trainer’s supervision.

SeaWorld Orlando is the last of the three U.S. SeaWorld locations to allow the public to feed its dolphins poolside. A spokesman told the Orlando Sentinel that the new program is similar to ones currently offered in San Antonio and San Diego.

“We made this change to elevate the guest experience,” SeaWorld spokesperson Aimée Jeansonne Becka said via email to the Guardian. “This new program is for those who would like to interact with the animals in an even more up-close and personal way, and have a reserved time and opportunity to do so.”

Mark Palmer, associate director of the International Marine Mammal Project at the Earth Island Institute, told the Orlando Sentinel that he believed the change in procedure is "a good move." Visitors could accidentally drop toys, pennies, or other harmful things into the pools that dolphins could eat.

According to Palmer, public pools where large groups of people can feed dolphins is unusual, because dolphins are "so prone to issues of stomach problems and things like that; most aquariums wouldn't do it."

A petition on that called calling for an end to the public feedings has more than 24,000 signatures. It claims that "most animal theme parks have discontinued dolphin-feeding programs because of the risks to the dolphins and the untrained public”.

Another argument for the ending of public feedings was that this move would reduce the number of incidents of dolphins biting people who were feeding or petting them. Over the years, there have been a few reported incidents of children being bitten, and in 2012, a video of a dolphin biting an 8 year-old girl on her arm at SeaWorld Orlando made national news.

SeaWorld has been hurting financially in the last year, possibly due to what some call the “Blackfish Effect.” The Guardian reports that stock in SeaWorld has declined since the company went public in early 2013 and that by August 2014, following a poor quarterly report, the stock price fell by almost one-third to $18. Likewise, the Blackfish Effect extended to park attendance, with a decline from 8.9 million visitors to 8.4 million, despite cutting ticket prices.

SeaWorld officials are, of course, positive going into 2015.

“Clearly 2014 has been a challenging year, but I am confident we are taking the necessary steps to address our near term challenges and position the company to deliver value over the long term,” Jim Atchison, CEO and president of SeaWorld Entertainment Inc, said in a statement.


Four black women, Engineers Christine Darden and Mary Jackson, mathematician Katherine Johnson, and computer programmer Dorothy Vaughn, worked as "human computers" at NASA during the Space Race, making space travel possible through their complex calculations. Jackson, Johnson, and Vaughn all played a vital role in helping John Glenn become the first American to orbit the Earth.

They worked behind the scenes, but now they're getting the credit they deserve as their accomplishments are brought to the forefront. Their amazing stories were detailed in the book Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly, which was later turned into a movie. (Darden was not featured in the movie, but was in the book). Johnson has a building at NASA named after her, and a street in front of NASA's Washington D.C. headquarters was renamed "Hidden Figures Way."

Keep Reading Show less

Between Alexa, Siri, and Google, artificial intelligence is quickly changing us and the way we live. We no longer have to get up to turn on the lights or set the thermostat, we can find the fastest route to work with a click, and, most importantly, tag our friends in pictures. But interacting with the world isn't the only thing AI is making easier – now we can use it save the world, too.

Keep Reading Show less
Good News
Courtesy of John S. Hutton, MD

A report from Common Sense Media found the average child between the ages of 0 and 8 has 2 hours and 19 minutes of screen time a day, and 35% of their screen time is on a mobile device. A new study conducted by the Cincinnati Children's Hospital published in the journal, JAMA Pediatrics, found exactly what all that screen time is doing to your kid, or more specifically, your kid's developing brain. It turns out, more screen time contributes to slower brain development.

First, researchers gave the kids a test to determine how much and what kind of screen time they were getting. Were they watching fighting or educational content? Were they using it alone or with parents? Then, researchers examined the brains of children aged 3 to 5 year olds by using MRI scans. Forty seven brain-healthy children who hadn't started kindergarten yet were used for the study.

They found that kids who had more than one hour of screen time a day without parental supervision had lower levels of development in their brain's white matter, which is important when it comes to developing cognitive skills, language, and literacy.

Keep Reading Show less
via KTVU / YouTube

The 63-year-old Oakland-Alameda Coliseum, currently branded the RingCentral Coliseum, is one of the most decrepit sports venues in America.

The home to the the NFL's Oakland Raiders (until they move to Las Vegas next season) and MLB's A's, is notoriously known as the Black Hole and has made headlines for its frequent flooding and sewage issues.

One of the stadium's few positive aspects is its connection to public transportation.

Keep Reading Show less
Hero Video
via Anadirc / Flickr

We spend roughly one-third of our life asleep, another third at work and the final third trying our best to have a little fun.

But is that the correct balance? Should we spend as much time at the office as we do with our friends and family? One of the greatest regrets people have on their deathbeds is that they spent too much of their time instead of enjoying quality time with friends and family.

Lawmakers in the United Kingdom have made a significant pledge to reevaluate the work-life balance in their country.

Keep Reading Show less