New TEDx Talk Highlights Why SeaWorld Should Retire Shamu

AWI Scientist Dr. Naomi Rose Highlights How Captivity Destroys Orca Family Structure

Washington, DC—In a TEDx Talk released today entitled “Let’s Throw Shamu a Retirement Party!,” Animal Welfare Institute marine mammal scientist Dr. Naomi Rose advocates for the gradual phasing out of exhibits and shows featuring orcas, highlighting the species’ complex family structure in nature as a primary reason why orcas cannot thrive in captivity. Dr. Rose presented her talk at TedxBend, an independent TED event held in Bend, Oregon, in April 2015.

In her presentation, Dr. Rose discusses how orcas in the wild share intricate family bonds, with members serving distinct roles to help one another survive, reproduce, and flourish. In contrast, Dr. Rose explains, orcas in captivity—sometimes held alone or with orcas from different populations—are denied natural family life.

In discussing the separation of family members at different marine theme parks, Dr. Rose says, “We all have family. How can it be morally right to do to others—even when those ‘others’ aren’t human—what we would consider devastating if it happened to us? This comparison is not anthropomorphism. It’s empathy.”

Dr. Rose’s TEDx Talk is highly relevant, given the recent pushback that popular marine theme park SeaWorld has faced from a growing number of consumers and businesses that believe it is no longer acceptable to hold whales and dolphins in captivity for the purpose of entertainment. Despite multiple lawsuits, business partnership cancellations, dipping stock, and plummeting attendance, the park continues to keep orcas in captivity for profit and refuses to acknowledge the public’s concern for the well-being of the animals.

However, with only 56 orcas in captivity in the world, Dr. Rose believes that the issue of their captive display can be solved. She encourages the public to write to marine theme parks and express support for the retirement of captive orcas to sanctuaries.

“When you’re considering where to go on family trips, think about whether you want to spend your money at a marine theme park, now that you know what you know about these whales’ remarkable families,” says Dr. Rose. “Consumer choice is a powerful force for change—after Blackfish aired on CNN in 2013, SeaWorld’s annual attendance dropped by a million visitors and its stock dropped almost 50 percent. Your choices make a difference.”

To view Dr. Rose’s TEDx Talk, visit

For more information on cetaceans in captivity, visit