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SeaWorld San Diego ending killer whale show

Associated Press logo Associated Press 1/7/2017
FILE - In this Nov. 26, 2006, file photo, SeaWorld Adventure Park trainer Ken Peters, left, looks to a killer whale during a performance at Shamu Stadium inside the theme park in San Diego. SeaWorld San Diego is ending its controversial and long-running killer whale show. The show that featured orcas cavorting with trainers and leaping high out of a pool ends Sunday, Jan. 8, 2017. (AP Photo/Bizuayehu Tesfaye, File) © The Associated Press FILE - In this Nov. 26, 2006, file photo, SeaWorld Adventure Park trainer Ken Peters, left, looks to a killer whale during a performance at Shamu Stadium inside the theme park in San Diego. SeaWorld San Diego is ending its controversial and long-running killer whale show. The show that featured orcas cavorting with trainers and leaping high out of a pool ends Sunday, Jan. 8, 2017. (AP Photo/Bizuayehu Tesfaye, File)

SAN DIEGO (AP) — SeaWorld San Diego is ending its long-running killer whale show after years of outcry and falling attendance prompted it to renounce theatrical orca displays.

FILE - In this Nov. 30, 2006, file photo, people watch through glass as a killer whale swims by in a display tank at SeaWorld in San Diego. SeaWorld San Diego is ending its controversial and long-running killer whale show. The show that featured orcas cavorting with trainers and leaping high out of a pool ends Sunday, Jan. 8, 2017. (AP Photo/Chris Park, File) © The Associated Press FILE - In this Nov. 30, 2006, file photo, people watch through glass as a killer whale swims by in a display tank at SeaWorld in San Diego. SeaWorld San Diego is ending its controversial and long-running killer whale show. The show that featured orcas cavorting with trainers and leaping high out of a pool ends Sunday, Jan. 8, 2017. (AP Photo/Chris Park, File)

The show that featured killer whales cavorting with trainers and leaping high out of the Shamu Stadium pool will have its final performances on Sunday.

FILE - In this Oct. 8, 2015, file photo, Animal rights activist Kirby Kotler, with his daughter, Kirra, 12, from Malibu, Calif., hold up signs as opponents and supporters fill the room during a California Coastal Commission meeting in Long Beach, Calif. SeaWorld San Diego is ending its controversial and long-running killer whale show. The show that featured orcas cavorting with trainers and leaping high out of a pool ends Sunday, Jan. 8, 2017. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes) © The Associated Press FILE - In this Oct. 8, 2015, file photo, Animal rights activist Kirby Kotler, with his daughter, Kirra, 12, from Malibu, Calif., hold up signs as opponents and supporters fill the room during a California Coastal Commission meeting in Long Beach, Calif. SeaWorld San Diego is ending its controversial and long-running killer whale show. The show that featured orcas cavorting with trainers and leaping high out of a pool ends Sunday, Jan. 8, 2017. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

This summer, the park will unveil a new attraction in the revamped pool. Orca Encounter is being billed as an educational experience that will show how killer whales eat, communicate and navigate.

FILE - In this Nov. 30, 2006, file photo, a young girl watches through the glass as a killer whale passes by while swimming in a display tank at SeaWorld in San Diego. SeaWorld San Diego is ending its controversial and long-running killer whale show. The show that featured orcas cavorting with trainers and leaping high out of a pool ends, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2017. This summer, the park will unveil a new attraction in the pool. Orca Encounter is being billed as an educational experience that will show how killer whales eat, communicate and navigate. The park has 11 orcas. (AP Photo/Chris Park, File) © The Associated Press FILE - In this Nov. 30, 2006, file photo, a young girl watches through the glass as a killer whale passes by while swimming in a display tank at SeaWorld in San Diego. SeaWorld San Diego is ending its controversial and long-running killer whale show. The show that featured orcas cavorting with trainers and leaping high out of a pool ends, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2017. This summer, the park will unveil a new attraction in the pool. Orca Encounter is being billed as an educational experience that will show how killer whales eat, communicate and navigate. The park has 11 orcas. (AP Photo/Chris Park, File)

The animals will still receive cues from trainers, however.

FILE - In this July 31, 2015, file photo, an orca or killer whale breaches in view of Mount Baker, some 60 miles distant, in the Salish Sea in the San Juan Islands, Wash. Two California Congressmen announced plans Friday, Nov. 6, 2015 to introduce the Orca Responsibility and Care Advancement Act. The proposed federal legislation aims to phase out the captivity of killer whales by banning breeding, importing and exporting the animals for public display to ensure that orcas now at aquatic parks such as SeaWorld are the last ones and that when they die, none will replace them. SeaWorld San Diego is ending its controversial and long-running killer whale show. The show that featured orcas cavorting with trainers and leaping high out of a pool ends Sunday, Jan. 8, 2017. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File) © The Associated Press FILE - In this July 31, 2015, file photo, an orca or killer whale breaches in view of Mount Baker, some 60 miles distant, in the Salish Sea in the San Juan Islands, Wash. Two California Congressmen announced plans Friday, Nov. 6, 2015 to introduce the Orca Responsibility and Care Advancement Act. The proposed federal legislation aims to phase out the captivity of killer whales by banning breeding, importing and exporting the animals for public display to ensure that orcas now at aquatic parks such as SeaWorld are the last ones and that when they die, none will replace them. SeaWorld San Diego is ending its controversial and long-running killer whale show. The show that featured orcas cavorting with trainers and leaping high out of a pool ends Sunday, Jan. 8, 2017. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

"You will still see a whale leaping out of the water," Al Garver, a former orca trainer and vice president of zoological operations, told the San Diego Union-Tribune (http://bit.ly/2i2Mxo4 ). "We want to be able to demonstrate behaviors people would see in the wild with the killer whales and their abilities as a top predator in the sea. The vast majority of behaviors people have seen in our shows will be very suitable for demonstrating that."

The park has 11 orcas, ranging in age from 2 to 52 years old.

Under pressure from activists and faced with declining ticket sales, SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. announced last year it was ending its theatrical orca shows and breeding program.

Parks in Orlando and San Antonio will end their shows by 2019.

SeaWorld has seen attendance fall since the 2013 documentary "Blackfish" criticized conditions of captive orcas, implying that confinement made them more aggressive.

"Blackfish" chronicled the life of Tilikum, an orca that killed a SeaWorld trainer during a performance in Orlando in 2010.

The movie's director has told CBS that the new show was designed to make the audience feel better, not the animals.

"The trainers aren't safe, and the whales aren't happy," Gabriela Cowperthwaite said. "They're still just doing manic circles around concrete swimming pools."

SeaWorld reported Friday that Tilikum, who was believed to be about 36 years old and in poor health, had died in Orlando.

SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. announced last month that it was eliminating 320 jobs across its 12-park company. The company also announced that it would help develop its first SeaWorld park without orcas, in Abu Dhabi.

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