An international whale preservation organization has selected Orange Orchard, a public relations agency with Maryville ties, to raise U.S. awareness of its mission to create the first North American seaside sanctuary for whales and dolphins.

The Whale Sanctuary Project recently announced the organization is closing in on a location for the sanctuary, which would house orcas or belugas that have retired from entertainment venues or need rehabilitation or permanent care. Many captive animals — especially those born into captivity — are unable to be released into their natural habitat and often will require a lifetime of care, Orange Orchard said in a press release.

“The Whale Sanctuary Project is the first organization of its kind,” said Lori Marino, founder and president of the Whale Sanctuary Project. “There are many who care about the plight of these captive animals, but we wanted to put that sentiment into action. Orange Orchard is also a rarity in the public relations industry. They’re focused on creating an eco-friendly, environmentally friendly world that is focused on animal welfare and social responsibility.”

The seaside sanctuary will offer as natural a setting as possible and allow whales and dolphins to live out their days free from concrete tanks and entertainment-related training and shows.

Orange Orchard is a division of Maryville-based Ripley PR.

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