A killer whale killed a trainer Wednesday afternoon at SeaWorld’s Shamu Stadium in Orlando, Florida, a public information officer for the Orange County Sheriff’s Office said.
The 40-year-old woman, identified by sheriff’s spokesman Jim Solomons as Dawn Brancheau, was in the whale holding area about 2 p.m. when “she apparently slipped or fell into the tank and was fatally injured by one of the whales,” he said.
But a witness told CNN affiliate WKMG-TV that the whale approached the glass side of the 35-foot-deep tank at Shamu Stadium, jumped up and grabbed the trainer by the waist, shaking her so violently that her shoe came off.
A SeaWorld employee who asked not to be identified confirmed the description of the attack and added that the whale involved is named Tillikum.In 2006, a trainer at the adventure park was hospitalized after a killer whale grabbed him and twice held him underwater during a show at Shamu Stadium. In 1999, Tillikum was blamed for the death of a 27-year-old man whose body was found floating on his back in a tank at SeaWorld, the apparent victim of a whale’s “horseplay,” authorities said then.
The whale involved in the attack had killed before. That in itself should have been a warning. This isn’t a golden retriever.
I’m also not going to go anywhere near the training technique stuff.
That’s talking around the edges of the problem. We need to cut to the heart of the matter.
And to get to the heart of the matter, we have only a simple question:
Should we even be keeping these cetaceans in captivity in the first place?
At one time I would have answered in the affirmative.
Those parks do provide funds for conservation and research on marine life.
They also provided awareness about how amazingly intelligent cetaceans are. At one time, whales and dolphins were blamed for reducing the productivity of fisheries, and there were regular culls.
But those days are long gone.
We now have the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and only aboriginal whalers can take them.
Now, I must admit that I enjoyed going to SeaWorld in Orlando when I was a boy.
I really liked watching the orcas do their behaviors. It was fun.
I really didn’t see the negative side of captive cetaceans.
Later on, I got to go to an animal training seminar in Hawaii that used live dolphins.(The seminar also included a dog that I later saw on Dogs with Jobs! I wish Nat Geo would bring that show back!)
I appreciate the animals. They are brilliant animals. They live in complex societies. They care for each other. They bond very closely with their families.
I get that.
However, I’m not now sure that the captive lifestyle is really the best for them.
They live in a world of acoustics.
But in captivity, their echolocation sounds bounce off the concrete walls of their tanks.
The tanks are all they know.
In the wild, they travel hundreds of miles.
In captivity, they are stuck in a concrete tank.
With such complex animals, I don’t think we can provide them the ideal lifestyle in such an environment.
That’s why I don’t think it is appropriate to keep them in captivity anymore.
I saw this animal rightsish documentary a few years ago, and although it has that agenda, it really did change my perspective on this issue:
I don’t think there is a good reason to keep these animals in captivity. Keeping them in a tank is like putting me in a concrete box on Mars. I might be able to survive if I am given adequate food, oxygen, and water.
But would I thrive? Hell no.
It took me two trips to Arizona before I was able to consider it beautiful. I’m accustomed to densely forested hills that are covered in dense forests. Dry places remind me of the summers when the grass wouldn’t grow and the rivers ran slow and black.
I can only imagine what it’s like for an orca in a tank. What does this animal feel in such a weird environment?
If we think about that question for a minute, the following conclusion is all but obvious:
Some animals just shouldn’t be in captivity. And this is one of them.
I should be taken to task for calling these things killer whales. It seems only captive ones have any interest in killing us. Those famous ones that beach themselves to catch sea lions in Patagonia will allow people to swim near them entirely unmolested.
I really don’t care that PeTA agrees with me on this issue. They got something right for once.
The animal rights people are going to like that one.
I don’t know about the next post, which is on tail docking.
Finally, I don’t know if you knew this or not, but the white shark has one natural predator.
And that’s the orca.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed from this post, but the issue of killer whales in captivity really grinds my gears.