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Sea World's Image

December 15, 1990

I wanted to take a moment to clear up some misinformation in a Nov. 19 article on Sea World of California. I'm afraid your readers may well have been left with an incomplete picture of our efforts.

The headline reads "Sinking Image? Sea World Navigates Rough Waters After Deaths of 6 Whales." Both the headline and a brief summary of the story in the Highlights column bear very little resemblance to the truth or to the Amy Wallace story they recount.

The Highlights column suggests that as a result of animal deaths in the last 2 1/2 years, a shadow has been cast over the morale of Sea World employees and that our attendance has suffered a related drop. Both implications are inaccurate.

I started with Sea World in its inaugural year and in more than 26 years with the park I have never seen employee morale higher. The millions of dollars in improvements made by Anheuser-Busch Inc. since its acquisition of Sea World last year are a source of great pride for our employees.

As far as attendance, the three-year period outlined in the article has actually seen attendance at Sea World increase by more than 7% over the three previous years.

To address the question of the death of animals, Sea World is, first and foremost, a zoological park. Animals are born and animals die at zoos and aquariums, just as they are born and die in the wild; to think otherwise is unreasonable. Since 1988, four killer whales have died at Sea World parks. Three were animals in their late 20s to early 30s and the fourth was Kandu, who sadly died of injuries suffered during normal social interaction.

In the same time period, Sea World parks have seen the births of four killer whale calves, an unparalleled breeding program for the species. Clearly animals at Sea World experience the same natural ebb and flow as animals in the wild.

The account of Sea World's involvement with the recent capture of a rare megamouth shark also was misleading. The suggestion that we refused to accept the animal because we wished to avoid a high-profile death is inaccurate and offensive. Sea World rescues, rehabilitates and releases hundreds of marine animals every year without regard to "image." We declined to accept the megamouth shark primarily because we do not have the facilities to properly care for it.

ROBERT K. GAULT JR., President, Sea World of California

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