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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

How awful

1 killed in whale attack at Florida SeaWorld

SeaWorld trainer killed by killer whale

I have very mixed feelings about keeping large sea mammals in confined spaces and training them for performances. I realise it's an opportunity to educate, and also to research, but I have to agree with the spokesperson from PETA (and I can't believe I'm saying that, since I think they're a little too out there sometimes) that it shouldn't be unexpected to have something like this happen when whales are kept in the equivalent for them of a bathtub. Captivity can bring forth aggressive behaviour in animals as well as humans. According to reports, Tillikum is a male orca who had a history of issues in Canada, and who was then sold to SeaWorld as a stud and had issues there when a man was found on the whale's back years ago who had apparently snuck into the area and drowned in what 'could be called whale horseplay'.

The fact of the matter is that any animal, whether wild or kept in captivity, has certain instincts. If it were a matter of the trainer slipping and falling in, I could see the whale understandably going toward the movement and shaking the object as if it were prey. I don't think the animal could really be blamed about that, exactly. But some witnesses are saying the whale came out of the water and grabbed the trainer by the waist. That's certainly something different. She was apparently a veteran; she knew whale behaviour, but would not have been prepared for that.

I can imagine they'll put down the whale once an enquiry has been made, which is both a shame and perhaps a necessity, given whatever actual circumstances are determined. It will certainly mar the SeaWorld 'Shamu' image as well, which will impact money flow and research. But I am so sorry for this trainer, who no doubt did what she did because she enjoyed doing so, her family, and every every man, woman, and child who witnessed this horrible scene. Thankfully, it didn't happen when one of them was down by the whale.

How horrible all around. Thanks, YKWIA, for alerting me to the story.

PS The name of the trainer has been released. Her name was Dawn Brancheau. According to the Orlando Sentinel:
WESH showed footage of her from 2000, when she talked about her love for the whales. Anchor Jim Payne said Brancheau had told the station that she fell in love with SeaWorld during a trip there when she was 9. WESH promised a special report on Brancheau on the late news after the Olympics.

Whale Kills Trainer at SeaWorld's Shamu Stadium

So sad...

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