Tag Archives: Death At Seaworld

SeaWorld’s magnificent killer whale, Tilikum, may be nearing death

12000 pound Tilikum, no tank is big enough.
Today SeaWorld released an ominous video (below) about 12,000 pound Tilikum’s condition in which they explain his deteriorating condition which is due to a drug resistant pneumonia.
As shown in the film Blackfish, and meticulously detailed in the book Death at SeaWorld, Tilikum’s life in captivity is iconic of all that is wrong about keeping whales in tanks. Several people may have died from the actions of this whale, but he is equally a victim.
It is time to Empty the Tanks.

2014 – The Blackfish Effect Will Continue; SeaWorld, Sea Life Park, and the Miami Seaquarium Face a Difficult Year

Oceanic Preservation Society

Overall, 2014 is shaping up to be a positive one for whales and dolphins –  there is a shift taking place, and opportunities are there for everyone to make a difference.
sw san antonioDemonstrators at SeaWorld, San Antonio showed up to honor the wishes of six year old orca advocate, Cash.
SeaWorld, Sea Life Park, Miami Seaquarium
Protests will inevitably continue to grow in 2014, and the second annual Empty the Tanks Worldwide Event is set to take place on May 24th 2014 – it promises to be bigger and bolder than last year, reflecting the growing awareness of how captivity in theme parks affects whales and dolphins.
Relics from the past, these institutions will have to start making changes quickly. While they have been able to hide behind arcane and unjust laws in the past, a more savvy public now knows that those laws can be changed. Thanks to the book Death at SeaWorld and the film Blackfish, attendance is dropping as more people become aware of the conditions at these parks and choose not to attend.
Below is a video of Sea Life Park, Hawaii (which shows the offspring of a false killer whale who was captured in the brutal Taiji, Japan dolphin drives). The video unintentionally does a great job of showing how tawdry and tired the place is, unfortunately this is typical of amusement parks worldwide. The second one was made after numerous complaints about that amusement park surfaced.

Efforts to remove “Lolita” from her tiny tank at the Miami Seaquarium and to move her to a sea pen near her wild family are gaining momentum. Her violent capture was shown in Blackfish.

(Orca Network)
(Orca Network)

Ocean Noise
This issue is rapidly becoming more topical as more reports of beached, stranded, injured, and dead marine animals are witness to the devastating effects of loud noise.

On land animals and humans alike know to move away from a loud or traumatic sound; the further we get, the more the sound dissipates. Underwater, we would not be so lucky. Sonar and ship noise can send a deafening tidal wave of noise for miles. It is difficult to pinpoint the origin or source of a particular sound and even harder to avoid or outrun it. Whales, dolphins and other marine mammals that have been caught in the wake of sonar have died of cerebral hemorrhaging or intentionally beached themselves in a desperate attempt to avoid the ear-splitting resonance. (Oceanic Preservation Society)

The Oceanic Preservation Society is one to watch this year, they are the group that produced The Covean Oscar winning documentary that exposed the annual dolphin drives in Taiji, Japan. They are working on a new film, and it promises to be innovative and motivating:

Watch for increased attention on sound issues and cetacean stranding in the coming year.

Senseless killing of marine mammals
People worldwide are increasingly aware of the dangers in eating the toxic meat from marine mammals, and are beginning to understand that these top predators play a vital role in ocean food webs. The Dolphin Project is increasing their efforts to reach the Japanese people and are bringing a concert to Tokyo this year, stay tuned for that one.
6098366_300 ric logoHelene Hesselager O´Barry, Program Associate, Dolphin Project
Earth Island Institute writes:

Jane Goodall, who has dedicated her life to the study and protection of chimpanzees, once said, “Change happens by listening and then starting a dialogue with the people who are doing something you don’t believe is right.”  These are wise words.
Unfortunately, there are times when such an approach isn’t possible, as some people are utterly unwilling to listen to the views of those who disagree with them.  An example of this is the dolphin hunters of Japan who slaughter dolphins by the hundreds each year.  They consistently react to any criticism with hostility and do all they can to cover up their actions, trying to prevent the Japanese public from learning that a dolphin slaughter is taking place in their own country.  Communicating with Japanese dolphin hunters, therefore, is not an option, although Earth Island continues to reach out to the Taiji town government and others in a continuing attempt to open up lines of communication.  One way of stopping the dolphin slaughter is by exposing it to the Japanese public so that they can speak out against it.
In the Faroe Islands, where hunters kill long-finned pilot whales in a slaughter known there as grindadráp, we are dealing with a quite different scenario.  Everyone there knows about the slaughter, which has been going on for centuries.  Faroese whale hunters do not try to hide it from the rest of the world.  They are extremely approachable and willing to talk to outsiders about it.  During my visits to these islands, I have always been met with hospitality, even by whalers who knew that I was there to write about the pilot whale slaughter that attracts criticism from all over the world.  As long as someone approaches them in a peaceful manner, they will listen to an outsider´s point of view.

There are dozens of quality organizations working to bring change who would love to have you join – or you can think about what you can do on your own as we welcome 2014. For instance Empty the Tanks protests are organized in communities far from an ocean, where people come together to discuss films, books, ideas, and make action plans. Search out online communities in social media, new voices are always welcome.
Have a great New Year!

Tilikum, a Bored and Broken Killer Whale; His Tragic Tale Will Soon be Out in Paperback

Just in time for summer, Death At Seaworld will soon hit the shelves in paperback – light and portable, it will be even harder to put down than was the hardback version.  The book chronicles the death of Seaworld trainer Dawn Brancheau at the jaws of Tilikum, the enormous killer whale who grabbed and dismantled her, his third victim.
Author David Kirby crafts the story in such a way that the reader comes to understand how the whale’s mind and body have been psychologically and physically damaged by life in captivity, ultimately leading to his aberrant attacks on humans (which never occur in the wild).  You can’t help but wonder where the breaking point is for all the rest of the captive orcas, when another one will snap and end the life of another a human being.
Following Dawn’s death Tilikum’s days have been spent drifting aimlessly in the confines of his featureless tank, looking bored, broken, and unhealthy.  He occasionally participates  in shows to break the monotony.
You might want to pre-order your copy of Death at Seaworld at Amazon to get it when first released so you have time to read it before the film Blackfish is released a few weeks later…you’ll want to be prepared. See below to find out how get the author’s autograph.

#1 Readers Poll Choice for Summer Books –Wall Street Journal Online
“Kirby makes a passionate case for captivity as the reason orcas become killers (and) tells the story like a thriller. His argument is, for the most part, fair and persuasive… We probably can’t free the orcas in captivity today, but we could make the current group of captive killer whales the last.”
–Wall Street Journal

Belying their claim to be in the business of education, Seaworld bends facts to hide the damage captive conditions causes the animals in their care. In this video, the viewers are told that Tilikum’s dorsal fin flops over his back because of genetics but there is no research to support this, and it happens to a frightening number of unrelated captive whales.
And on the subject of research, even though Seaworld claims that keeping whales in tanks make it possible to do research that will ultimately help both the whales’ wild brethren and humanity (how?), it would be easier to get the formula for Coca Cola than it is to find what research has been done by them. Various scientists have reported that Seaworld rarely grants access to the whales, even for observational studies which would not interfere with the amusement park’s programs.

image002 dasw cover pb

From Fins and Fluke:

Please join our “Death at SeaWorld” paperback initiative to get this incredible book on the best-sellers list! If you preorder the book and send us proof-of-purchase we will send you a signed sticker by David Kirby to put in the front of your new book! Already own the hardback? No problem; consider ordering a paperback and donating to a library or high school to get the word out. https://www.facebook.com/events/420429341398500/

The Real SeaWorld – Understanding the Captivity Controversy (Video Features Puget Sound’s Local Orcas)

Now in their usual fall pattern, the Southern Resident orcas are happily searching for salmon down near Seattle where they entertain us as they forage and frolic (check Orca Network for the whales’ current locations) – reminding us once again how it is more relevant to observe whales in the wild than in the unnatural conditions of captivity.
This new video, filmed last summer around San Juan Island by the Humane Society, captures the essence of why the orcas belong in the wild, and how very easy it is to enjoy them there.

SeaWorld Responds to Release of Video Showing Killer Whale Attack – New Update!

More ‘double think’ from SeaWorld…Peters did not run with a broken foot because he was unafraid and calm, he clearly ran because he was fearful – who wouldn’t be?

SeaWorld representative Thad Lacinak remarks in the video that if the whale wanted to kill Peters, she would have, but as a former SeaWorld trainer remarked to me – Lacinak’s remark implies that SeaWorld must then admit that two of their whales intended to kill the trainers who died in their tanks, and stop trying to blame the deaths on trainer error.

Any whale, at any time, is capable of choosing to toy with the trainers or worse – and it is time for SeaWorld to abandon their efforts to force the trainers back into the water in these dangerous conditions.
Please go to Voice of the Orcas for more information on captive killer whale issues.
UPDATE:  SEAWORLD HAS MORE TO SAY.  (Some corrections to the comments by SeaWorld in the following video – a one year old killer whale is a baby, fully dependent upon their moms. The whales don’t like to separate, they are forced to if they want to eat.  Comparing an attack by a captive whale to great white shark attacks in Australia? OSHA is “silly”?  I’m speechless.)

SeaWorld Trainer Attack Video Released

The following is excerpted from a press release:


The following video was presented at trial in the case of SeaWorld v US Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis. Judge Ken Welsch, who ruled largely against the company, called the video “chilling” – More details are provided in DEATH AT SEAWORLD, and a description of the video is excerpted below. To view the unlisted video, please click here.
NOTE: There is no audio on this video.
Peters had been waiting for Kasatka to touch his foot, the beginning of that particular behavior. He was about ten or fifteen feet down. Suddenly, he heard a killer whale vocalizing loudly. Peters described it as a distress vocalization or cry.
He later learned the wailing was from Kalia (Kasatka’s calf) screeching for her mother, presumably, from the other pool.
Kasatka instantly pulled her rostrum away from Peters’ feet. And then she grabbed his ankles, pulling him underwater for several seconds. When he resurfaced, she grabbed him again, this time “rag-dolling” her trainer violently by shaking him back and forth with her powerful neck muscles. Kasatka took him under again, for a minute or more.

Then, slowly and deliberately, as if performing a bizarre underwater pas de deux, the whale began to spiral upward with Peters’ foot in her mouth. She exhaled a cloud of white bubbles from her blowhole.

…When they finally resurfaced, Tucker Petrzelka heard a shout for help. He slapped the water, trying to bring Kasatka back to stage. Matt Fripp grabbed the call-back device and deployed it while John Stewart slammed a metal bucket against the pool’s side. Kasatka was having none of it.

She decided to take Peters to the bottom once again. They could be seen beneath the surface. She still had a foot in her mouth, and she dragged the trainer around, dunking him periodically and ignoring all signals to return to stage…

…Resigned to the belief that Kasatka was going to take him under yet again, he drew in air and waited. It didn’t take long. She grabbed his foot, thrashed him around a little and then dove to the bottom anew.This time, she laid her entire 5,000-pound body on top of the trainer, pinning him to the concrete for a minute or more.
Peters went limp. He felt his breath being forced out. He wondered when, or if, Kasatka was going to let him up…

View the video (obtained through the Freedom of Information Act) and read the rest of the story at the Death at SeaWorld website.

“Death at SeaWorld” Hits the Bookstores as New Poll Shows Captivity for Whales Losing Favor

“As David Kirby so eloquently documents in this timely work, killer-whale captivity only benefits the captors. It is impossible to read ‘Death at SeaWorld’ and come to any other conclusion.”
–Jane Goodall, Ph.D., D.B.E., Founder, the Jane Goodall Institute
Don’t miss the opportunity to meet the author and some of the individuals in this compelling and engaging book!
Death at SeaWorld author David Kirby and several leading figures from the book, including orca expert and Humane Society scientist Naomi Rose, along with former SeaWorld trainers Sam Berg, Carol Ray and Jeff Ventre will present a reading, panel discussion and book signing event in Seattle on Monday, July 23rd 2012.
FREE and open to the public.
For more information and to register, please go to the website “DEATH AT SEAWORLD” Book Presentation and Panel Discussion.
Press release from The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society:

Poll Reveals Americans Oppose Keeping Orcas in Captivity for Public Display
Animal Welfare Groups Conduct First-Ever Opinion Poll on the Practice
(July 16, 2012) — The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, together with The Humane Society of the United States and the Animal Welfare Institute, released the first-ever nationwide opinion poll gauging attitudes about keeping orcas, also known as killer whales, in captivity for public display. The poll found that more Americans oppose than support the practice, with only one in four people in favor of it.
“With recent events shining a spotlight on performing orcas in places like SeaWorld, including the deaths of two trainers and current court challenges questioning the legality, safety and appropriateness of keeping killer whales in confinement, we felt it time to measure public attitudes about orcas in captivity,” stated Courtney Vail, campaigns manager for WDCS. “The public has glimpsed the darker side of the captivity industry and is becoming disenchanted with it. The true face of captivity is actually quite repugnant.”
Overall, support for keeping killer whales in captivity is low, the poll found, at 26 percent. Even more telling of the tide of public opinion, however, is that strong opposition to this practice is triple that of strong support, with 24 percent of respondents indicating they are strongly opposed and only 8 percent strongly favoring the practice.
WDCS and its partners believe that orcas are inherently unsuited to confinement. They are too large, too socially complex, and too intelligent to adapt successfully to captivity. In captivity, orcas live far shorter lives than they do in the wild and exhibit aberrant behavior to their offspring, to each other, and to people.
Data suggest that opposition only increases as Americans further consider the question of orca captivity. Whatever educational value the public recognizes in orca exhibits is outweighed by concerns over the impacts of removing these animals from their natural habitat and keeping them in captivity.
Significantly, the poll reveals the public’s apparent lack of enthusiasm for with keeping orcas in captivity and that captive orcas are not, and would not, be the primary reason for visiting these facilities. Seventy-one percent of respondents say that if zoos, aquaria and marine mammal theme parks were to end the practice of keeping killer whales, they would still visit. Indeed, a further 14 percent would be more likely to visit if the practice of displaying killer whales were to stop.
The June survey reached a nationally representative sample of more than 1,000 U.S. adults. Edge Research designed the survey questions for Opinion Research Corporation’s Caravan omnibus survey that was conducted via phone. The margin of error for the sample as a whole is +/-3.1 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence interval.
“The curtain has been pulled back to expose the realities behind these shows, and this has dampened the public’s support of these exhibits,” said Naomi Rose, Ph.D. and marine mammal scientist for The HSUS. “The tide is definitely turning against keeping orcas in captivity.”
Other key findings of the poll include:
· Opposition to the practice is motivated more by concern over the welfare impacts to orcas in captivity than by the notion that keeping orcas in captivity represents a danger to humans.
· More than 80 percent of respondents believe that the inability of orcas to engage in natural behaviors and the negative consequences of confinement in small pools—including stress and illness—is a sufficient reason to stop keeping orcas in captivity.
· Americans want to learn about orcas. Eighty-seven percent of those surveyed have sought to learn about whales either through live or virtual means. While one-third of the sample had visited a zoo, aquarium or marine mammal theme park, two-thirds had learned about orca whales through museum exhibits, IMAX films, news, television and online sources.
“The U.S. public clearly loves orcas, enough to want them to stay wild, making it inevitable that the day will come when there are no releasable orcas in captivity,” stated Susan Millward, executive director of the Animal Welfare Institute. “SeaWorld and other parks need to listen to their customers now and work towards bringing that day closer.”

Actress threatened by captive orca?

Author David Kirby (DEATH AT SEAWORLD: Shamu and the Dark Side of Killer Whales in Captivity) recently reported that an actress, during filming at Marineland in France,  felt threatened by a captive orca:

Marion Cotillard, who won the Best Actress Oscar for La Vie en Rose and will soon be seen in the summertime blockbuster,The Dark Knight Rises, is speaking out about an incident she experienced with a killer whale while filming on the set of Rust and Bone, a French import due in US theaters this fall. “One of the whales kind of went mad at me,” the actress recalled. “She screamed at me with her jaws wide open.”
Cotillard was filming at the Marineland park in Antibes, France when the act of aggression occurred. Her statement is eerily reminiscent of captive orca aggression described in the book Death at SeaWorld, Shamu and the Dark Side of Killer Whales in Captivity.
The book, to be released July 17th by St. Martin’s Press, recounts the brutal killing of beloved orca trainer Dawn Brancheau at SeaWorld Orlando in 2010, and theorizes that captivity is so stressful on these intelligent, free-ranging animals, it drives them to turn on humans (no orca has ever seriously attacked a human in the wild in all recorded history, while four people have died in killer whale tanks since 1991).
Cotillard, ironically, is herself adamantly opposed to orca captivity. Rust and Bone required her to work daily with killer whales, and persuade them to do silly tricks, “a task she found unpalatable after years of campaigning for animal welfare and supporting charities including WildAid and Greenpeace,” according to the London Evening Standard.
“I’ve always had a repulsion going in a place where animals are in captivity. I had to work through my rejection of this world, which I still feel. But I had a job,” she said. “Even though the orcas are as big as trucks, they’re animals, and you have a connection with them.” The actress added that she felt guilty when she withheld treats from the killer whales.

You have a rare opportunity to learn more about the dangers of keeping orcas in captivity – on Saturday, July 21st, a panel of  scientists, former SeaWorld trainers, writers, filmmakers and others will be in Friday Harbor, Washington, and the public is invited to join them in discussing cetaceans in captivity.  Please click here for more information:
Eventbrite - Killer Whales in the Wild Versus in Captivity - Meet the experts and participate in the discussion.

Former SeaWorld trainer to share insights

Former SeaWorld trainer, Samantha Berg

Former SeaWorld trainer Samantha Berg plans to discuss orcas from a trainer’s perspective in what promises to be an interesting and entertaining broadcast of the Sam Simon show this Friday.
She intends to discuss the living conditions of the whales, the true nature of the job, and the dichotomy between the trainer’s professed love for the orcas versus how inhumanely the  whales are kept.
Of course it is live radio, so anything can happen – and if you miss the live show you can hear a repeat at 6:10 pm, or check sites such as Voice of the Orcas which may have recordings that you can hear at a later date.
You can listen to her interview  here, 3:10 pm Pacific time on Friday, 6/8/12, or again at 6:10 pm.

Wow! SeaWorld – Discrimination in Hiring? Unsafe Working Conditions?

Apparently SeaWorld is raking it in while raking its employees over the coals.
Author David Kirby has uncovered much about SeaWorld that has previously been kept out of public scrutiny, and he reveals it all in his soon to be released book, “Death At SeaWorld”.  In a recent press release, Kirby shared a few of his discoveries of what goes on behind the scenes at these amusement parks.
Here are some samples of what the book covers:

Two former employees filed sworn affidavits alleging that SeaWorld hid or destroyed documents sought by federal agents in the investigation of Brancheau’s death, and tried to impede other parts of the investigation. (Both whistleblowers subsequently retracted their allegations within a short period of time of each other.
One of the whistleblowers alleged that senior male trainers at Shamu Stadium had sexually harassed female trainers, asking for sexual favors in exchange for more “water time” with the whales. When asked about the matter, SeaWorld spokesman Fred Jacobs did not deny the allegations.
•SeaWorld was the subject of a lengthy audit and investigation by the US Department of Labor over unfair hiring practices. Government inspectors asserted that more than 1000 qualified African-American and Hispanic applicants had been turned down for employment.
• The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited SeaWorld for a “willful” violation of the law in the Brancheau incident and said the company had acted with plain indifference to employee safety.
• SeaWorld will likely challenge any negative ruling from its appeal to the OSHA violation, which would send the case to Washington, DC, where the ongoing process would pit SeaWorld’s owner, The Blackstone Group, against US Labor Secretary Hilda Solis. Blackstone’s CEO, Stephen Schwarzman, is a major-league supporter of Mitt Romney and once compared Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler.

• SeaWorld routinely allowed its most senior trainers to put themselves in extremely vulnerable positions with Tilikum, even though he had already been involved in the death of two people.
• Some SeaWorld defenders said the incident was Dawn’s fault and she should never have been in such a vulnerable position. But several SeaWorld witnesses at the hearing to overturn the OSHA violation testified that Dawn did not break protocol that day.
• Despite the clear danger of being in shallow water so close to Tilikum, SeaWorld to this day considers what Dawn was doing when she died to be “dry work” instead of “water work.”
SeaWorld had been clearly warned of the risks in allowing water work. Following a serious incident at SeaWorld San Diego in 2006 in which a trainer nearly drowned, the California state OSHA wrote: “If someone hasn’t been killed already, it is only a matter of time before it does happen.”
• SeaWorld successfully exerted its considerable political influence to have the death warning redacted from the final report that was issued in 2007.
Contrary to popular belief, SeaWorld conducts only limited scientific research on killer whales in its collection, and does very little to directly impact wild orca habitat.
• A careful review of the published, peer-reviewed literature shows that most studies done on SeaWorld’s orcas pertain to the husbandry of captive animals, with little benefit for those in the ocean.
• SeaWorld does not appear to be active in saving the threatened and endangered orcas of the Pacific Northwest or the wild salmon on which they depend.


For more on the press release and the book, please go to Death At SeaWorld