Sea World Learns Nothing, Again

This video of a killer whale at Sea World nearly drowning a trainer during a show in 2006 is very difficult to watch.  The trainer survives but the first 10 minutes of the clip, when the whale has his foot in her mouth and pulls him underwater, depicts what well could have been the end of this man’s life.  The look on his face shows it.  To his credit, he remains calm, continually patting the orca in an attempt to soothe her.

In a new book called Death at Sea World, author David Kirby explains that the whale in the video had been swimming with her baby prior to the show and that during the performance, the calf started screaming for her mother from a nearby pool.  That’s when the mama whale began attacking the trainer.

The story provides critical context to the attack and would presumably give Sea World pause regarding the continued pursuit of their killer whale shows.  But even though orcas have killed 4 people at Sea World, the corporation is moving toward the re-introduction of trainers in the water with whales – a practice which had been suspended after the most recent death.  It is unknown how soon Sea World might return to putting trainers in the water during performances but I imagine it will happen the very second Sea World thinks it can get away with it.

17 thoughts on “Sea World Learns Nothing, Again

  1. Page not found for the book link.

    Sea World has been shady as shady can be regarding their show animals for many years. The fact that they continue to sacrifice trainer safety does not surprise.

    1. TY – fixed. WordPress has this thing where, if you forget to include the http:// part of a link addy, it starts ramming its head against the wall.

  2. Wild animals have no business being kept in tiny aquariums and forced (or trained) to perform stupid tricks for human entertainment. Dolphins and their kin, orcas, survive and thrive in the wild, not in a bowl.

    1. Those are my thoughts, too. These animals belong in the wild. I can understand how the mother would be upset to hear her baby crying for her.
      Kind of reminds me of the stupid things we humans do to/around dogs and are then surprised when they bite!

    1. Agreed. On top of this near-disaster at Sea World, the NYTimes just ran a story about zoos killing “unwanted” baby animals as soon as they get too old to be tourist attractions and major money makers–

      1. I am just reading this now – thank you for posting it. I see some European zoos allow animals to produce offspring they know the zoo will kill just so they can experience the joys of parenthood.

      2. The Times story is just incredible.

        With respect to Sea World, like many people, I didn’t know how to evaluate the killings of trainers. It was the writings of Michael Mountain that made it clear to me that the whales were killing trainers on purpose. It completely changed my perception of what Sea World is doing.

  3. WARNING: The following is a bit of a rant–if you’re not in the mood, just skip over it….
    I used to be one of those people who never missed an opportunity to see a “Dolphin Show” at one of these parks. As a member of the “Flipper Generation”, I always admired these beautiful and (obvious even to a kid 40+ yrs ago) extremely intelligent beings, and completely bought into the myth that Sea World and its ilk was protecting and enhancing their lives, that the tricks they performed were merely “enhanced natural behaviors” (which you’d do, too, at any prison camp if that was the only way to get food), and that they were providing a vital role of “educating the public” about whales, etc., etc.

    Then, as I started becoming more actively involved in Animal Welfare and Rescue, I started to learn the truth about these institutions (Sea World, H$U$, PETA, many zoos, etc): do they educate–definitely, but only what they want us to know! Have you ever seen anything in one of these exhibits that addresses whales in captivity, their true needs, their mental health–they die of depression, very often (which is what killed the original Flipper)?

    And then I saw “The Cove” (the movie made by Flipper’s original trainer about the “killing cove” in Taiji, Japan, where a lg majority of these captive whales come from, but where many more are killed for meat–Google it). I became physically ill, and it all hit home!

    These poor beings, possibly the most intelligent mammals on the planet [except humans–maybe!]–are being viciously trapped, captured, tortured, killed–and the “survivors” are akin to the humans that the Nazis spared to wait on them, entertain them, etc., in return for permanent enslavement–no different from the African/Caribbean slave experience here in the US, for that matter.

    So, to bring this to my point, Kasatka was probably just “doing her job” until she heard her baby cry. Though there’s no audio on the video, I suspect she may have been trying to communicate using clicks and whistles to say she had to go help her baby, and when she was ignored, she did the only thing she could think of to get some attention–she _very gently_ pulled him under the water for a short (to her–their lungs are a lot bigger) while, and then carefully brought him to the surface and gave him plenty of time to pay attention to her needs. When he didn’t, she “nudged” him again. Need I point out that had she meant to “attack” him, she could so easily have: ripped his foot off, crushed his head in her mouth, slammed/crushed him against the wall of the tank (she weighs a couple of tons)–or all three. She just wanted some attention from her captors (and she never did get it, did she?).

    Does Sea World get it? Maybe they do, but again, like the H$US, the money machine has grown too large and too uncaring–those who try to protest, as Flipper’s ex-trainer did–are expelled and ridiculed. We HU-MANS have lost all touch with the other beings on this planet, and if Karma truly exists, we have more to pay than we can ever imagine.

    Some day, if our planet survives, we will pay for what we are doing. I just wish I didn’t have to be part of it now.

    1. Sea World has some kind of pool with a bottom that can be raised in an emergency to lift the whale out of the water. It’s a very impressive technological achievement to me. But gee, talk about missing the point entirely. Let’s all buy tickets to have dinner with Shamu.

  4. We went to Sea World a lot as kids (a very long time ago) and thought nothing of it. Good times had by all. And then I saw The Cove a couple of years ago and it just kinda messed with all those memories of me touching starfish. For shame, Sea World. I will not grace your ticket booth ever again.

  5. To me it looks like at the 530 mark(or some where around there) she lets go. Instead of swimming off he than starts to do circles/play and she follows suit. Then while doing that she dragged him down again.

    I went to Sea World as a child and was traumatized. 1 time and that was it. My parents wanted to go back and I refused. Never really understood how making them do tricks was entertainment. Just cruel.

    Same with my local zoo. I would plant myself in front of the tigers & lions because their enclosers then were the equivlent to a jail cell. a concret slab for a bed from on a wall, metal bars and the cats couldn’t even stretch fully from one wall to another. I felt bad. Thought me sitting there gave them “some” companionship. Of course the enclosers now are extremly impressive but I still won’t go as there were rubblings of what happens to the petting zoo animals when they got too big or aggressive.

  6. I’ll bet he doesn’t ever leave his swim fins in the bait bucket again!

    These are warm blooded, intelligent, milk drinking mammals they’re dealing with, treating them as nothing more than a side show investment for their bank account.

    These are not small brained fish that survive on instinct, but large brained mammals that survive on intelligence. Not fish that live in schools, but mammals that live in family groups (pods). We, as mammals also, may be more capable because we have thumbs, but our intelligence can’t be any better because they don’t imprison others, they don’t need “things” and have no use for wars.

    In other words, they are better than us.

  7. I do not believe in holding animals in captivity like this (zoos, Sea World, circuses) rather than letting them be in their natural environment so Im not surprised that this whale freaked out when she thought her baby was in danger.

  8. So glad that all this is getting into the mainstream press now. I like others on here, visited seaworld when i was a teenager. I didnt think as to where these whales/dolphins came from. fast forward to 2010 and i watched the cove which blew me away: i never knew that dolphins are injected with medicine to stop ulcers developing in capitivity; the chemicals in the water render them blind: their sonars bounce of the tank walls which drive them crazy, the chemicals burn their skin. I could go on but we all get the idea. The trainers love the whales at seaworld but its an 45 year old experiement that went wrong. whales/dolphins shouldnt be in captivity performing stupid tricks for people. Hopefully with the ken peters footgae plus dawn brancheaus’ death maybe this the beginning of the end. seaworld is already going down the theme park route, keep going thay way just realise these creatures to seapens and charge people to visit. they can recoup money that way.

  9. Frankly, I agree that some changes need to be made at Sea World. There’s a reason why the animals there have been involved in multiple attacks, while whales at other facilities have not.

    That said, I disagree that preventing trainers from going in the water is a good step to take. These trainers know the risks they are getting into when they take the job. Tactile reinforcement and play are incredibly important to the relationship the whales and trainers develop, and preventing that will only hurt the animals. These relationships take years and years to develop.

    Here’s the thing: many, many jobs are incredibly more dangerous than that of a whale trainer. Cab driving, for example. But we’re not appalled by the death of a cabbie in a car accident, because it doesn’t hit us at the same primal level as the death of someone by an animal with big teeth. Our instincts haven’t caught up to our reality.

    Sea World needs to catch up with the Shedd aquarium and other large facilities in terms of animal enrichment and husbandry. But let’s stop being so appalled by the very real and understood risks that these trainers take, because I can guarantee that every trainer who works with these animals is well aware of the danger, and chooses to do so anyway.

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