SeaWorld Whale that Killed Trainer to Perform Again

Posted Mar 30th 2011 10:00 AM


The killer whale that killed a trainer at SeaWorld Orlando one year ago is back in the spotlight today, scheduled to perform for the first time since the incident.

Tilikum, the 6-ton killer whale, has not been in any shows since the Feb. 24, 2010 death of trainer Dawn Brancheau, when the whale pulled her into the water and drowned her in front of park visitors, reports the Orlando Sentinel.

SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment President Jim Atchison approved Tilikum's return earlier this week and the killer whale is expected to appear today.

The decision to use Tilikum again is unbelievable to some.

"If you had a friend that had a dog that had mauled three people, would you go play with that dog?" said Russ Rector, a former dolphin trainer in Fort Lauderdale who now opposes keeping marine mammals in captivity, reports the newspaper. "These people only care about the show. They never learn."

But Kelly Flaherty Clark, SeaWorld Orlando's animal training curator, said in a statement, "Participating in shows is just a portion of Tilikum's day, but we feel it is an important component of his physical, social and mental enrichment."

No trainers will be in the water with the whale, a policy in place even before Branchaeu's death, because of his size and violent history. Tiliku is the largest of the SeaWorld's killer whales and had been involved in two human deaths in 1991 and 1999, the first, a trainer at a British Columbia aquarium and the second, a homeless man who sneaked into SeaWorld Orlando's killer-whale complex after hours.

Since last year, no trainers have been in the water with any killer whales at all, but last month SeaWorld announced plans to explore bringing them back for the interaction that guests love. The park has invested millions of dollars on new safety equipment, including rising pool floors that can quickly lift people and whales from the water, underwater vehicles to distract the animals in emergencies and portable oxygen bottles for trainers.

Last summer, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration accused SeaWorld of recklessly putting trainers in danger by allowing them to interact with the whales without barriers between them.

It fined the company $75,000 and it recommended that trainers never again be exposed to Tilikum. SeaWorld is fighting the fine. Hearings before a federal administrative-law judge are scheduled to begin April 25.

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August 27 2011 at 2:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm an under water PhotoJournalist and I'm saying leave all the wild animals where they belong and not in captivity.

March 31 2011 at 11:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If you actually gave a damn about his physical, social and mental well-being, then he wouldn't be kept in a bathtub!!!!! Orcas are social animals who live in pods and travel hundreds of thousands of miles and interact with others in their own dialects. This poor being is not able to do a SINGLE THING that he would do on a daily basis if he were allowed to live a life without human interference.

March 31 2011 at 5:34 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
joe rodriguez

I believe we need to be more causious of these animals, doedill7 you my friend are an idiot! who are we to take a life, and just shoot this whale? that is so stupid to even sujest that! why don't we kill all the convicted murderer's in jail? people on death row for decades, animals are put on earth for our protection, not to abuse and kill them at a whim. there must be other options, try improving thier living conditions.

March 31 2011 at 4:37 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Shasta, in the wild, the food of the Orca, or "killer whale", mostly consists of seal, fish, and careless birds, not humans. Of course, these creatures should be considered as "wild" and respected as such in a closed-in environment where they were not meant to be kept. I'm sure it breeds much frustration on the part of the animal. I don't agree with it at all, personally.

However, the young woman who died was one of Tilikum's caretakers; an employee. You may call this what you will, but in the end, one woman's life was lost because of her love and wish to work closely with these great creatures.

March 31 2011 at 4:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Shasta L.

I have a motto~~Stupid deserves everything it gets. For F**k sake, we call it a KILLER whale. Killer is right there in the name. How do you think something with the rep to get a name like that feels about being in a pool? He comes outta the ocean and now he's in a pool putting on shows for what I'm sure he looks at as food.
I do not feel bad for these people. I'm glad they get killed by these animals. STUPID DESERVES EVERYTHING IT GETS. End of story.

March 31 2011 at 2:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It's incomprehensible to me that an amusement park would put people in harm's way again after not one but THREE people have perished at the hands of this whale. I've often heard the experts say these shows traumatize the whales and they should be returned to the wild. It definitely sounds like Tilikum should be released from captivity, he's the largest of all their whales and the most dangerous. It's only a guess but it sounds like Sea World wants to capitalize on the whole situation by marketing the "dangerous killer whale who has taken 3 lives." I guess curiousity-seekers might be willing to pay to see what disaster the whale is going to wreak next. They haven't learned from their mistakes and I hope no one else pays the price.

March 31 2011 at 2:22 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mike C.

I say, when a whale kills somebody, put him on the menu at one of Sea World's fine restaurants. I would rather eat a criminal animal than an innocent one. :>)

March 31 2011 at 2:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I don't see anything wrong in bringing the whale back out to perform. No one cares more about these animals then the trainers. Their wild animals, incidents can happen but it's great that they have new safety feats. I would love to work with those beautiful animals any day. I will be visiting this summer.

March 31 2011 at 1:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Courtney's comment

I am disgusted by your comment but not surprised based on some of the comments I have read here. This animal should be in the wild, not in a fish bowl jumping in the air so you can get your jollys by getting splashed. Sadly, he cannot be returned to the wild nor should he be put on display for your entertainment. Go to a movie or read a book. No animal needs to be used or abused in pursuit of that endeavor.

March 31 2011 at 10:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Any reason to think that any other killer whale wouldn't have behaved the exact same way under the same circumstances?
Come on people. This is a wild animal. It's even called a KILLER WHALE for crying out loud.

March 31 2011 at 12:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply