SeaWorld Denies It Created Hybrid 'Jurassic World'-Style Orcas

SeaWorld has denied claims from a former employee that it created hybrid Jurassic World-style orcas.

Former SeaWorld orca trainer John Hargrove told The Sun newspaper recently that, when the park still had a breeding program, subspecies of orca that would never meet in the wild were made to mate. This was part of an attempt by the park to create more whales as tourist attractions, he said.

Hargrove spent 20 years working at SeaWorld with the park's captive killer whales. He had a prominent role in the 2013 documentary Blackfish, which explored a series of deaths caused by Tilikum—one of the park's most famed captive orca.

Hargrove told the newspaper that it was like Jurassic World, a movie whose premise "is that they created hybrid dinosaurs."

"That is exactly what we did at SeaWorld," Hargrove told the newspaper. "[...]The main takeaway with creating a hybrid orca is that you truly have no idea what you've created because they don't exist in nature. So all things are possible."

John hargrove
John Hargrove, a former SeaWorld trainer. He recently told The Sun that SeaWorld created hybrid killer whales. Michele Sandberg/Getty

SeaWorld has denied the claims in a statement sent to Newsweek.

"There is nothing new in these claims. The wild characterizations from this former employee – who has not worked at SeaWorld in any capacity for 10 years – are designed to get clicks, not communicate facts or science," a SeaWorld spokesperson told Newsweek.

"The fact is SeaWorld is independently accredited, reviewed, and certified by both federal wildlife agencies and independent third party experts to uphold the highest standards of animal care. Much of what the world knows about killer whales today is because of what has been learned through nearly 60 years of care and study of orcas in accredited zoological facilities such as SeaWorld. That knowledge and expertise continues to directly benefit the understanding of the health and conservation of wild orca populations. SeaWorld ended its killer whale breeding program in March 2016."

SeaWorld's captive killer whales have been a controversial topic among animal rights activists for years. The orcas performed in theatrical shows until 2017.

Four deaths have been caused by the captive orcas at the park. Tilikum, who lived at SeaWorld's Orlando attraction, was responsible for three of them.

In Blackfish, former trainers including Hargrove speak out about captive orcas suffering psychological damage and trauma, leading to aggression. Hargove also wrote a book called Beneath the Surface, which detailed his experiences at the park and how he believed it was unsafe it was to keep the whales in captivity.

SeaWorld has previously criticized Hargrove for his claims against the park. The park said in 2015 that Hargrove had left his position after he was discipled for a safety violation.

SeaWorld
A trainer performing with an ocra at SeaWorld San Diego. Hargrove has said the captive orca were inbred. Sandy Huffaker/Getty

Animal welfare groups continue to scrutinize SeaWorld and other attractions that keep orcas in captivity.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) recently shared a video of orcas at SeaWorld San Diego fighting with each other. PETA claimed this was down to "extreme stress and frustration" felt by the orcas.

SeaWorld said the video was "misleading and mischaracterized." The park said in a statement that the video "shows common orca behaviors exhibited by both wild populations and those in human care as part of natural social interactions."