It was a tragic day at Sea World in Orlando, FL. It would seem that 40 year old trainer, Dawn Brancheau was drowned by the killer whale named: Tilikum, which is said to mean “Friend” in Chinook Native American language.
The story of what actually happened has been skewed a bit so it’s hard to know what actually went on because the media and Sea World said one thing.
“It is with great sadness that I report that one of our most experienced animal trainers drowned in an incident with one of our killer whales this afternoon,” SeaWorld General Manager Dan Brown said in a statement. Additionally he stated: “We’ve initiated an investigation to determine, to the extent possible, what occurred. There are no other details to report at this time.”
On the other hand witnesses to the actual event were reported saying that they had seen the orca, or killer whale jump out of the water, grabbed the woman and began violentlyÂ thrashing around the tank with her (A witness interviewed by CBS affiliate WKMG Local 6).
Other sources claimed that she slipped and fell into the holding tank, but later the audience witness story was confirmed by another trainer: Chuck Tompkins who said that Dawn was indeed: “pullen in and drowned.”
Obviously this is not the first time that this has happened in history and for this particular killer whale, 30 year old, 12,000 lbs, Tilikum, this was not his first mishap and drowning at a marine life park! The first account occurred in 1991 in the Sealand of the Pacific Park in Canada (currently defunct park). There the whale had killed a 20 year old marine biology student and trainer, and also in 1999 he killed a homeless man, who had stayed in the park after hours.
I don’t know how the protocol goes for a mammal of his size and age, but I think he either needs to be euthanized or released back into the wild so these violent outbursts don’t occur anymore.
They don’t call them killer whales for no reason! We all watched and enjoyed Free Willy, but some animals are not made for a cage. It’s kind of criminal to put an animal of the size and power into a tank and make it jump and swim with humans. It may be a member of the dolphin family, but it is known to hunt sharks and other whales in nature. I do believe you can train some animals, but clearly this particular whale, with it’s history, has had a problem being held captive.
Moreover you can’t really blame the animal who is used to having the ocean to roam and now is forced to live in a much smaller place, is fed what Sea World wants it to eat, and has to share this cramped small place with other animals of it’s size or larger and splash and jump on cue! It’s sad that another trainer had to die, but maybe it will make Sea World think and review their policies and reconsider their captivity program of killer whales, because it seems that most of the time, their problems are not with the sharks, or the seals, or sea lions, walruses, or dolphins they are with the big, beautiful, black and white orcas–killer whales!
I loved going to Sea World and seeing Shamu as much as the next person, but hearing yet another one of these stories definitely makes me rethink the whole idea of the “show whale.”
What do you think of Sea World and how the hold killer whales captive?
Do you think it’s a better environment–meaning safer–for the whale?
What do you suggest they do to keep audiences happy as well as the whales?
Did this story shock you?
Also have you noticed killer whales with the curved fin in captivity versus the straight, large, upright fin in nature? Could captivity depress them so much that there physical traits change?