Warning about SeaWorld killer whales as trainer says ‘Jurassic Park-style’ breeding program created ‘aggressive hybrid whales’

SEAWORLD “played god” with orcas during the breeding program, creating aggressive hybrid killer whales, a former trainer claimed.

John Hargrove, who trained orcas at Seaworld for most of his 20 years, says whales that would never meet in the wild were inseminated while others were able to breed.


John Hargrove worked for SeaWorld during his 20 years training orcas and says their breeding program was irresponsibleCredit: AP
Since 1961, approximately 166 orcas have been taken captive from the wild - SeaWorld has 19 of those orcas in its three parks in the United States


Since 1961, approximately 166 orcas have been taken captive from the wild – SeaWorld has 19 of those orcas in its three parks in the United StatesCredit: AFP

Trainer John says the world-renowned marine park had “no idea” what they were creating and fears the horror breeding program could have led to more aggressive orcas being kept in captivity.

John, who starred in the great documentary Blackfish after leaving SeaWorld, compared the marine attraction to the movie Jurassic World.

In the blockbuster movie, scientists create a hybrid dinosaur to be used as a theme park’s star attraction, but the creature goes into a deadly frenzy after outsmarting its handlers.

John says this is exactly what happened at SeaWorld in his desperate bid to breed more orcas for his live shows that draw millions of visitors every year.

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He explains how orcas captured from the Argentines were bred with Icelandic orcas — while the two would never interbreed outside of captivity.

John blamed SeaWorld’s irresponsible breeding of the genetically engineered whales that would never survive in the wild simply because they don’t exist.

Exclusively to The Sun, he said: “It’s like Jurassic World, the whole premise of the movie is that they made hybrid dinosaurs.

“That’s exactly what we’ve done at SeaWorld.

“It can happen by being in captivity, you can have an Icelander with a Pacific whale and eventually breeding can happen.

“But in nature they would never mix. Some might mix, but they are family units, so breeding never happens.”

He continued, “But if you put them in captivity, those parameters break. It’s a completely unnatural environment.”

John added: “The most important thing about making a hybrid orca is that you really have no idea what you’ve created because they don’t exist in nature. So all things are possible.”

Seaworld killer whales were also able to mate with family members due to poor planning and the whales no longer being in their protective family pods, John says.

In 2007, killer whale Katina and her own son Taku produced a calf named Nalani after they were able to mate.

Three years later, SeaWorld orca Kohana gave birth to a calf after she was able to mate with her uncle – she immediately rejected the baby that survived and remains in Tenerife’s marine park, Loro Parque.

John said, “We had a few cases of inbreeding at SeaWorld.

“Katina’s son Taku bred her and she had the calf, huh [Taku] later died of encephalitis in another park after impregnating his own mother.

“As you would expect, she didn’t treat her calf the same as the others. She didn’t ignore it or take care of it, but she did the minimum and no interaction — so she knew.

“When SeaWorld sent four orcas to Loro Parque, one of the female Kohana was taken from her mother and shipped to Spain.

“She was eventually inbred by her uncle, Keto, and gave birth to calves when she was unnaturally young. These things wouldn’t happen if the mother was around.

“No mother or other woman to help – she had no protection.”

John Hargrove left SeaWorld 10 years ago as seen in the bombshell documentary Blackfish


John Hargrove left SeaWorld 10 years ago as seen in the bombshell documentary BlackfishCredit: Melissa Hargrove
SeaWorld has faced serious backlash from charities over the use of killer whales in public shows


SeaWorld has faced serious backlash from charities over the use of killer whales in public showsCredit: Alamy

In 2016, California passed a law banning the breeding of orcas in captivity – SeaWorld responded by announcing it would halt its breeding programs in all three parks.

However, breeding is still legal in countries like Japan and Russia, where killer whales are still used to perform in live shows.

John Reilly, then president of SeaWorld San Diego, stated before the ban that “a ban on breeding would condemn these animals to a slow extinction in our care.”

Later, SeaWorld said it was going in a “new direction” but that their remaining orcas would remain in the park because they “wouldn’t survive in the wild.”


Since 1961, about 166 orcas have been taken into captivity from the wild — SeaWorld currently has 18 orcas in its three parks across the United States, according to the charitable organization Whales and Dolphin Conservation.

Of the 18 SeaWorld orcas, six are hybrid whales, some of which are known for their aggressive tendencies.

Born at SeaWorld Orlando in 1995, Hybrid Orca Keto killed trainer Alexis Martinez after being loaned to Loro Parque.

Another hybrid killer whale, Tuar, who was sent to the Texas park, began behaving aggressively before grabbing a trainer by the leg.

Most of SeaWorld’s killer whales are captive bred with the semen of SeaWorld’s most famous killer whale Tilikum.

Only a select few orcas could be used for breeding, mainly because it takes years to train a sexually mature male for the staff to take a sperm sample — leaving the park with a small gene pool.

It’s like Jurassic World, the whole premise of the movie is that they created hybrid dinosaurs. That’s exactly what we did at SeaWorld.

John Hargrove Former SeaWorld Trainer

SeaWorld star Tilikum, who is believed to be responsible for the deaths of three people, now has 21 captive offspring, according to former trainer Samantha Berg, and his genes can be found in 54 percent of the SeaWorld collection.

During the Blackfish documentary, Samantha says, “In a reputable breeding program, rule number one is that you should definitely not breed an animal that has shown a history of aggression towards humans.

“Imagine if you had a pit bull that had killed, that animal would probably have been euthanized.”

Although SeaWorld claimed the breeding program was aimed at inspiring guests to protect orcas in the wild, it was largely unsuccessful.

Of the 28 live births in the three parks, nine babies died while others were stillborn, miscarried, or died while still in the mother.

The Sun last month shared the tragic story of SeaWorld killer whale Corky, who lost all of her seven babies at Marineland and SeaWorld.

She lost her last calf at SeaWorld San Diego after the baby killer whale was found dead in the bottom of her tank in 1987.

Killer whales are known to live in close pods in the wild with calves living with their parents for decades until they reach adulthood.

But former trainers revealed that many SeaWorld mothers and calves were separated while the baby was sent to another park.

The park faced some serious setbacks after the release of the bombshell documentary Blackfish, in which several trainers talked about their time there.

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In addition, several animal charities have campaigned to close the parks for good, asking visitors to boycott the “inhumane” maritime attraction.

The Sun Online has reached out to SeaWorld for comment.

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