Another Orca Dies: Get A Clue, SeaWorld!

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Sumar performing (L A Times)

At 12, this young orca was just becoming mature when he died, and SeaWorld held hopes that he would become a sperm donor for their breeding program as well as continue to bring in revenue from the circus acts he was forced to perform.

Now SeaWorld can add his death to their list of woes – the death of trainer Dawn Brancheau, the fines slapped on them by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for putting employees in danger, lawsuits stemming from the trainer’s death, and the loss of the 20 year old female Taima who died while giving birth in June – plus they are now dealing with a concerned public that is not going to let them sweep this death under the rug as they have done 58 times in the past. It is time that amusement parks give up on keeping orcas captive. It is past time.

Here is the article from the L. A. Times:

Sumar, a 12-year-old killer whale, died mysteriously Tuesday at SeaWorld in San Diego, forcing cancellation of the orca shows at Shamu Stadium, officials at the park said.

The male orca began acting lethargic on Monday and was given antibiotics by park veterinarians. But his condition worsened and he died at about 1:45 p.m. A necropsy is planned.

The show will resume Wednesday.

Sumar, approximately 15 feet long and 5,300 pounds, had been at the San Diego park since 1999. He was born at the SeaWorld park in Orlando, Fla., on May 14, 1998, and spent some months at the SeaWorld park in Ohio before being transferred to San Diego.

While still a calf, Sumar’s mother, Taima, attacked him during a show at the Orlando park. The two were separated permanently, and other female orcas acted as Sumar’s surrogate mother.

In San Diego, Sumar was a star of the orca shows and was considered a possible candidate for breeding. Six orcas remain at the park.

— Tony Perry in San Diego

Does that report not sound eerily like this one from 2007?

Taku Passed Away-October 19,2007

Taku, a male killer whale at Sea World died unexpectedly Wednesday. Taku was one of Sea World San Antonio’s six killer whales. He was 14 years old, measuring about 22 ft and weighing about 7,250 pounds.
According to a Sea World spokesperson the team was alerted that something was wrong with Taku late Wednesday night and he died shortly thereafter. The Zoological Operations team have not yet determined a cause of death. A full report should be available in about six weeks.
In a statement, a Sea World spokesperson said, “While we recognize that death is part of the life cycle, we are saddened over the unexpected loss of this animal.”

Source: WOAI (NBC affiliate)

Or the one that followed in 2008?

From the Houston Chronicle–

A 2½-year-old killer whale died Sunday night at SeaWorld San Antonio, becoming the second orca to die at the theme park in the past eight months. Early Monday, Sea World officials said the female killer whale named Halyn died unexpectedly.

But Sea World spokeswoman Fran Stephenson said Monday evening that the whale had been under a 24-hour watch and was on two courses of treatment after her behavior changed earlier in the weekend. She said she didn’t know what those changes were.

Tissue samples from the whale will be examined to establish a cause of death, she said, but that will take about six weeks. “While we recognize that death is part of the life cycle, we are saddened over the unexpected loss of this animal,” a SeaWorld press release said.

Halyn was one of five killer whales at SeaWorld San Antonio’s Shamu Theater, but Stephenson said Halyn didn’t perform regularly because she was young.The whale was, however, featured in educational presentations and behind-the-scenes tours.

The death comes almost eight months after Taku, a 14-year-old male orca, died Oct. 17 at the park. Officials said that death was unexpected as well. Tests showed Taku died of pneumonia, a respiratory infection.

And then there is SeaWorld’s track record with humans in just the last 11 years (from USA Today):

2000 Injury SeaWorld, San Diego A dolphin entangled a trainer in a net, spun her around and held her underwater during a dolphin capture exercise. The trainer suffered three fractures and torn ligaments in her right arm. California’s OSHA investigated and fined the park $375. SeaWorld changed its procedures for such exercises.

2002 Injury SeaWorld, San Diego Killer whale Orkid pulled a trainer into the pool by her foot. The trainer broke her arm before being rescued. OSHA did not investigate because the injury was not serious enough to meet the threshold for triggering an inspection.

2002 Injury Busch Gardens, Tampa Bay, Fla. A zookeeper was giving her family a private tour when a 350-pound, male African lion attacked and ripped off her arm. She was hospitalized and the remainder of her arm was amputated. OSHA investigated the incident at Busch Gardens, which is now owned by SeaWorld. OSHA records do not specify whether the park was fined.

2004 Injury SeaWorld, San Antonio Killer whale Kyuqet slammed trainer Steve Aibel underwater repeatedly. Aibel had minor injuries. OSHA did not investigate.

2005 Injury SeaWorld, Orlando A killer whale swam rapidly by a trainer, circled back and bumped him during the Shamu show. The trainer was taken to a local hospital for unspecified minor injuries and released that day, according to SeaWorld spokeswoman Becca Bides, Orlando Sentinel reported. OSHA did not investigate.

2006 Injury SeaWorld, San Diego The 5,900-pound killer whale Orkid grabbed trainer Brian Rokeach’s left ankle. The trainer was rolled and pushed to the bottom of the pool where the whale held him for about 26 seconds. The trainer suffered a torn ligament. OSHA did not investigate.

2006 Injury SeaWorld, San Diego The 7,000-pound killer whale Kasatka grabbed trainer Ken Peters’ feet and repeatedly pulled and held him underwater. Peters was hospitalized. The whale had attempted to bite a trainer twice before, in 1993 and 1999. California’s OSHA investigated and found no fault. Separately, it fined SeaWorld $240 for unrelated violations.

2006 Two injuries SeaWorld, Orlando A dolphin bit a boy celebrating his 7th birthday with a sleepover at SeaWorld Orlando. The boy, under the supervision of a SeaWorld employee, was petting the dolphin at the Dolphin Cove, a petting attraction. The boy’s mother, Hollie Bethany, told the Orlando Sentinel two adults had to pry the dolphin’s mouth open to free the boy’s hand. The bite bruised the boy’s thumb but did not break the skin. SeaWorld spokeswoman Becca Bides told the paper no changes are being planned for the attraction. A dolphin at the same attraction had bitten a 6-year-old Georgia boy on the arm three weeks earlier, the Sentinel reported. Bides said the dolphin in that incident might be sent to a “behavior modification” program. OSHA did not investigate either incident, because no employees were harmed.

2007 Injury SeaWorld, San Diego Orkid, a 5,900-pound killer whale, butted her trainer off of a low wall during a sonogram for artificial insemination. The trainer, who fell backward and hit her head, suffered “very minor” injuries, SeaWorld Vice President Mike Scarpuzzi told the San Diego Union-Tribune. She was taken to the hospital, treated and released the same day. OSHA did not investigate.

2009 Injury SeaWorld, San Diego A sea lion bit a trainer on the leg during a performance. The trainer was taken to the hospital where her wound was cleaned. OSHA did not investigate.

2010 Death SeaWorld, Orlando Trainer Dawn Brancheau, 40, was grabbed by a killer whale, pulled into the water and held there. The trainer died of traumatic injuries and drowning. OSHA is investigating

SeaWorld has taken an ostrich-like approach to the changing sentiment of the public, hiding their heads in the financial success of the past. No one wants to go to an amusement park and feel sorry for the animals, or worry about the risks to the trainers, let alone spend the money to do so once they understand the situation. SeaWorld needs to face this reality before they find themselves in a financial quagmire because no matter what, SeaWorld is responsible for the welfare of the orcas that they have bred in captivity, and as public attendance drops, so will their income.

Then what will become of the whales?

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