Jane Goodall is best known for her work with primates, but she is making waves for saying SeaWorld should be shut down.
In an interview with the Huffington Post, Goodall said whales and dolphins should never be held in captivity and that the theme park famous for its orcas should be put out of business.
“They definitely should be closed down,” Goodall told HuffPo in an interview published Monday.
SeaWorld (SEAS)has come under fire for its treatment of killer whales, or orcas, after the sharply critical documentary “Blackfish” aired in theaters in the summer of 2013 and on CNN in the fall of that year.
Goodall points out that whales and dolphins communicate with sonar-like sound waves. Keeping them confined in tanks means those sound waves bounce off of the walls and echo back, creating what she called an “acoustical hell” for the animals.
SeaWorld said in a statement that it works with experts in “bioacoustics” to measure the noise level in its enclosures, which it says are quieter than the “ambient ocean.”
The company suggested that Goodall may not be familiar with recent research on whales and dolphins kept in zoos.
“Jane Goodall is a respected scientist and advocate for the world’s primates, but we couldn’t disagree more with her on this,” SeaWorld said in a statement. “Zoos and marine mammal parks like SeaWorld allow people to experience animals in a way that is inspiring and educational.”
More broadly, Goodall said she is hopeful that humans are becoming less interested in watching orcas perform and more sympathetic to their plight in captivity.
“It’s not only that they’re really big, highly intelligent and social animals so that the capture and confinement in itself is cruel,” she said, but also that “they have emotions like ours.”
Goodall’s comments come amid an ongoing backlash against SeaWorld.
Attendance at SeaWorld parks, which are located in Orlando, San Diego and San Antonio, has declined since “Blackfish” premiered.
“Blackfish” recounts the 2010 death of veteran SeaWorld trainer who was killed by a whale named Tilikum. It challenges the concept of keeping killer whales for entertainment and suggests that Tilikum had been driven to madness by captivity.
The company has also lost some of its long-standing corporate sponsors, including Southwest Airlines (LUV), which dissolved its 26-year-long partnership with the company. Mattel (MAT), which made a SeaWorld-themed Barbie, confirmed last week that it would not renew its licensing agreement with the company.
Meanwhile, SeaWorld’s stock price has gone into a tailspin, falling roughly 48% since the documentary debuted.
The Jane Goodall Institution did not immediately respond to a request for comment.