The decades-long tradition of feeding dolphins has ended at SeaWorld’s Orlando theme park.
People have gathered for years to pet the creatures and spend a few dollars on food for them. Now SeaWorld has revamped its Dolphin Cove area. Visitors can still pet dolphins but can no longer lure them with $7 trays of fish.
Instead, guests can purchase packages that include touching the dolphins and having their photos taken with them under a trainer’s supervision. Those 10-minute packages — starting at $15 per person — will not include feeding. Visitors can sign up in advance online beginning March 2. Each session can include five groups of up to 10 people each.
Asked why it changed the system, SeaWorld spokeswoman Becca Bides said in an email the new program is similar to popular ones in SeaWorld’s San Diego and San Antonio parks.
Mark Palmer, associate director for the International Marine Mammal Project at nonprofit Earth Island Institute, called it “a good move.” Visitors could accidentally drop plastic toys and other things into pools, where dolphins could eat them, said Palmer, who opposes captivity.
Pools where large numbers of people can feed dolphins are rare, Palmer said. Dolphins are “so prone to issues of stomach problems and things like that; most aquariums wouldn’t do it.”
There have been a few reported incidents of children bitten while petting or feeding the dolphins. In 2012, an 8-year-old girl made national news after her father posted a video of a dolphin biting her arm as it grabbed the paper fish tray she held. Ending the feedings should lessen those incidents, Palmer said.
A petition on TakePart.com calling for an end to the feedings has more than 24,000 signatures.
“Most animal theme parks have discontinued dolphin-feeding programs because of the risks to the dolphins and the untrained public,” it says.
Full story: Orlando Sentinel