08 December 2010

SeaWorld says Merry Christmas to workers by laying them off

It will not be a merry Christmas at SeaWorld for either the captive animals or the unfortunate employees who found out they lost their jobs late last week.

The company, whose motto is “As real as it gets,” is making life really difficult for the 350 employees who were handed pink slips just 3 weeks before Christmas. A majority of the jobs lost will be at the company’s Orlando Park, while the rest of the layoffs will occur at the company’s 10 other parks.

SeaWorld said the layoffs were due to corporate restructuring after separating from Anheuser-Busch last year and being bought by private-equity firm The Blackstone Group.

These are the first across-the-board layoffs in 20 years for the company and come after what can only be described as a dismal year in which four orcas and a trainer died at SeaWorld's marine park in Orlando. The bad publicity surrounding trainer Dawn Brancheau’s death has reportedly taken a toll on the company’s revenues.

Bad weather, a soft economy and a dearth of new attractions have also been blamed for the slump which, according to Cincinnati-based International Theme Park Service, has seen its attendance drop by 6% this year and revenues decline by 200 million.

Following the death of trainer Dawn Brancheau, in which OSHA found SeaWorld to be culpable for, SeaWorld revamped its Shamu shows and no longer allows trainers to be in the water with the whales.

Meanwhile Tilikum, the whale involved in the fatal incident, is being kept isolated in a small pool out of the view of the public.

It looks like it’s going to be a sad Christmas for Tilikum and all of SeaWorld’s captive marine animals as well as the park's laid off workers and their families.

Robin Lawless | @robmlaw | email
Robin lives in New York City where she loves to check out all the vegan eateries. When she's not writing for TDIV, Robin enjoys taking dance lessons, reading, practicing yoga, hanging out with her cat Maggie, baking vegan treats, and volunteering at Catskill Animal Sanctuary. Feel free to add Robin as a friend on Facebook.

Photo credit: cc: flickr.com/photos/diogocortiz