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Blue Planet Project SeaWorld plans new Orca environments


SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment is to build new multi-million dollar killer whale environments at its three SeaWorld parks in the United States, bringing to an end the era of live shows featuring the giant mammals. “For 50 years, SeaWorld has transformed how the world views marine life,” declares Jim Atchison, president and CEO of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment. “The unprecedented access to marine mammals that our parks provide has


increased our knowledge of the ocean. Our new killer whale homes and research initiatives have just as bold a vision: to advance global understanding of these animals, to educate, and to inspire conservation efforts to protect killer whales in the wild."


The first of the new Blue Planet Project-branded habitats will be built at SeaWorld San Diego in California, featuring a total water volume of 10 million gallons (38 million litres). Nearly double the size of the park’s existing killer whale facility, it will offer the world’s largest underwater killer whale viewing experience, with windows exceeding 40ft in height and more than 350ft (107m) in length. According to Atchison, the environment will enhance the educational experience for guests, “as they will be able to walk alongside the whales as if they were at the shore, watch them interact at the depths found in the ocean, or a birds-eye view from above.”


The habitat will be large enough to support a broad range of the whales’ behaviours and challenge them both physically and mentally. Among other things, a “fast water current” is


Singapore Flyer's fresh start


The Singapore Flyer has a new owner. Straco Leisure is a joint venture between Bay Attractions Pte Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Straco Corp, and WTS Leisure Pte Ltd. Straco is a leading Singaporean company focusing on attractions and tourism-related projects with a significant presence in China, where it operates aquariums in Shanghai and Xiamen. “The Singapore Flyer is a defining Singapore attraction and represents an exciting opportunity to expand our presence in the region and contribute to the Singapore tourism industry,” notes Straco executive chairman Mr Wu Hsioh Kwang.


A buyer for the 165m observation wheel, which until the opening of the


High Roller in Las Vegas was the world’s tallest, had been sought since May of last year when its previous operator was put into receivership. London Eye operator Merlin Entertainments was one potential suitor. Straco is reported to have paid S$140 million ($110/€85m) for the attraction, which cost S$240 million to build in 2008.


planned, allowing whales to swim against moving water, as they might in the ocean. In the process, animal health professionals and independent scientists are expected to get a better understanding of the mammals, both in the parks and in the wild.


The San Diego facility is expected to open to the public in 2018 with new killer whale homes following at SeaWorld in Orlando and San Antonio (Texas). As part of the Blue World Project, SeaWorld has committed $10 million in matching funds focused on threats to killer whales in the wild, in addition to the almost 50 studies conducted by its scientists to date. SeaWorld executives insist they had already embarked on plans for the new whale environments before the release last year of the documentary film Blackfish, which was highly critical of the operator’s orca programme. The Blue Planet Project plans do not appear to have silenced all off SeaWorld’s critics, however. "A bigger prison is still a prison," remarked PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) spokesman Jared Goodman in response to news of the new whale habitats.


Consigned to history: SeaWorld’s performing whale shows Meet the new man


at IAAPA Europe If you’re at Euro Attractions Show in Amsterdam this month, then look out for Pablo Moragrega, the new senior manager at IAAPA Europe. He comes to the association boasting an extensive 16-year career in the attractions industry. Most recently he was general manager of the Serena Villas waterpark and ski resort in Helsinki, Finland. He will be based out of IAAPA’s European office in Brussels.


iaapa.org/europe 14


Pablo Moragrega


SEPTEMBER 2014


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