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SeaWorld to Stop Breeding Killer Whales

Visitors are greeted by an Orca killer whale during a show at the animal theme park SeaWorld in San Diego, California, March 19, 2014.

The U.S. theme park operator SeaWorld said it is ending its controversial killer whale breeding program.

The company said Thursday that the whales currently at its parks would be the last.

The Florida-based SeaWorld Entertainment Inc, which has parks in California and Texas, said it would replace its signature "Shamu" killer whale theatrical shows with displays focusing on conservation.

"The new vision for SeaWorld reflects changes in society and SeaWorld’s evolution with those changes, including ending killer whale breeding, new inspiring natural orca encounters, and new partnerships to protect oceans and marine animals," the company said in a statement posted to its website.

SeaWorld also announced a partnership with the Humane Society, saying the agreement will help each group extend its mission of preserving and protecting wild animals and the places they live.

SeaWorld has been struggling with lower park attendance and public criticism since the release of the 2013 documentary "Blackfish," which suggested that SeaWorld was not treating the orcas well.

Park attendance dropped after the release of the film and SeaWorld reported a fourth-quarter loss of $11 million in February.

Some material for this report came from AP and Reuters.