SeaWorld announces major expansion of its Killer Whale Habitats at all three parks, plus new dedicated conservation funds

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In a ceremony broadcast live to all three of its parks, SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. just announced that it plans to build new, first-of-its-kind killer whale environments at all three of its SeaWorld parks. It will also fund new programs to protect ocean health and killer whales in the wild. The new projects will build on SeaWorld’s legacy of providing state-of-the-art, innovative homes for its animals, and will offer park guests unique and inspiring killer whale encounters for generations to come. As part of its vision for the future, the company also pledged $10 million in matching funds for killer whale research and is embarking on a multi-million dollar partnership focused on ocean health, the leading concern for all killer whales and marine mammals.

“For 50 years, SeaWorld has transformed how the world views marine life. The unprecedented access to marine mammals that our parks provide has increased our knowledge of the ocean and inspired generations,” said Jim Atchison, Chief Executive Officer and President of SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. “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.”

Here’s a video of the announcement and an interview with SeaWorld Orlando park president Terry Prather:

Much more on this expansion including my thoughts on whether it will make a difference for SeaWorld, the animals, and guests below the jump:

SeaWorld Orlando Just For Kids Rules Saturdays

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Spring is a busy season at Orlando’s theme parks. Crowds can be large and lines long no matter where or when you go. SeaWorld Orlando wants to give you another option. Every Saturday through April 12th, you can bring your family and enjoy the special Just for Kids festival. Like all SeaWorld events, it’s included with your park admission.

This year’s Just for Kids is a little different than year’s past. They’re not having the kid music concerts. But SeaWorld’s year-long 50th Celebration will be in full swing. As part of the celebration, park pathways will come to life with oceans of spontaneous entertainment. Guests will enjoy a Sea of Surprises featuring new interactive experiences and shows, even more up-close animal encounters and the SeaWorld “Surprise Squad” treating park guests with prizes and special experiences every day.

At “Just for Kids”, families can experience whimsical fun and make lasting memories as they dance along to jammin’ DJ’s at the NEW Rockin’ Rockhopper Party in Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin, get up close with adorable animal friends at the all-new “SEA Garden,” and meet some of their children’s favorite television stars. My favorite part was the “SEA Garden” which also features some amazing sculptures made from debris that was found on beaches.

And there’s more! Kids can go on an educational treasure hunt as they look for the Sea Star icons throughout the park where they’ll discover fun, educational activities. At each location they will collect a stamp and a limited edition Explorer’s card. After visiting all four locations, they’ll receive a coupon to redeem for a special SeaWorld prize at select gift shops.

Then end the night with Shamu & Crew at the Shamu Dance Party at the Village Square located at the front of the park. The party begins one hour prior to park closing with a stilt walker emcee who fills the square with music that the whole family can dance to, including popular line dancing songs and party favorites. The Shamu Dance Party continues until 30 minutes after park closing.