Angry Sea World officials reacted bitterly Wednesday to reports that the marine theme park controlled its waterfowl population by routinely shooting unwanted birds until the practice was stopped two years ago.
The story was reported by the San Diego Tribune, which quoted a former park employee as saying that “hundreds” of birds were killed by shotgun-toting park employees. Jim Antrim, general curator at Sea World, was quoted as saying that the shootings were necessary to rid the park of hybrid waterfowl.
Wild Ducks Blamed
Hybrid waterfowl were produced after wild ducks flew in and bred with the park’s resident exotic birds, Antrim said in the newspaper’s story. He said the practice of shooting unwanted waterfowl may have been in effect for at least 14 years.
Antrim defended the killing of hybrid birds because they were genetically harmful to their own species and Sea World’s collection of birds.
On Wednesday, Sea World spokesman Dan LeBlanc did not deny that birds were routinely shot, but he refused to comment further. LeBlanc also said he would not allow Antrim to talk to a Times reporter.
“I’m not going to grace the story with any further interviews,” LeBlanc said.
Sea World officials released a two-page statement late Wednesday night, but they did not discuss the bird killings.
In a brief telephone interview, LeBlanc said he was “annoyed” with the Tribune’s story and attacked the paper for running it on the front page.
“I’m so annoyed at the Tribune story and the way it was handled,” he said. “It was something that’s not news. What is newsworthy about this story? I’m not going to discuss this any further. We’re trying to put together a statement.”
Former Sea World employee Suzie Siebern told the newspaper that “hundreds” of birds were killed within “one or two” hours one morning in February, 1985. She also said that some birds were put up for adoption by Sea World officials, while sick or deformed fowl were killed humanely.
Siebern could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
LeBlanc denied that birds were killed by the hundreds. “It’s not nearly that number of birds,” he said.
California Fish and Game Department officials said Sea World did nothing illegal by shooting the unwanted birds and did not need a permit to kill them. A department official said that state and federal permits are needed only for killing migratory game birds.