Thursday, February 25, 2010

Killer Whale Indeed

Yesterday, I posted a link on Facebook about a killer whale in Orlando that killed it's trainer. A lot of details have now come out, so to summarize:

On Feb 24th, a SeaWorld Orlando trainer died Wednesday from "multiple traumatic injuries and drowning" after a killer whale named Tilikum pulled her underwater by her long pony tail near the theme park's Shamu Stadium. The trainer was "interacting" with the killer whale in knee-deep water "when the animal grabbed her by the hair, said to be in a long pony tail, and pulled her underwater," the Orange County Sheriff's Office said. "Rescuers were not able to immediately jump in and render assistance" to the trainer because of the whale's "aggressive nature."

Officials say trainers had to coax an aggressive whale into a smaller pool and use a platform to lift it out of the water before they could free the woman from its jaws.

This Whale Has A Violent Past

~According to the Orlando Sentinel, trainers were forbidden with swimming with Tillikum, a 12,000-pound orca nicknamed "Tilly."

~Only about a dozen of 28 handlers had been specifically trained to work with him from the edge of SeaWorld's pools.

~In 1991, Tilikum and two female killer whales dragged trainer Keltie Byrne underwater, drowning her in front of spectators at Sealand of the Pacific, a defunct aquarium in Victoria, British Columbia.

~Acquired by SeaWorld the next year to breed with female orcas, he was involved in a second incident in July 1999 when the naked body of a man who had apparently sneaked into SeaWorld after hours to swim with the whales was found draped dead across his back.

Why Did This Happen?

A former SeaWorld contractor who has watched Tilikum for 10 years says despite Tilikum's violent past he never saw more than temper tantrums.

"His personality is very laid back," he said. "I've seen him bang his head on the glass. I want to say that Tilikum wasn't doing this intentionally but unfortunately it just looks like he either got curious or bored and wanted to grab her."

He says the 22-foot-long killer whale spends a lot of time alone often in a 15 foot deep pool because he's used for breeding, which is not natural for such a social animal, marine experts say.

"It's a part of their lives to have whales visible to them at all times," said Richard Ellis, a marine conservationist at the American Museum of Natural History. "Put one in a tank and that whale is unhappy."

What Will Happen To Tilikum?

SeaWorld has no plans to euthanize the killer whale that dragged the trainer to her death Wednesday, and will allow trainers to continue to work with the animal, a park official said today.

As two federal agencies launched investigations into the trainers death, the park said it will review its safety policies and determine whether Tillikum, a 12,000-pound bull killer whale, will be used in shows and publicly displayed.

1 comment:

Julie said...

So sad. I mean, yes it's scary. But I feel bad for such huge animals to have to live in such small spaces. A little pool like that is not the same thing as a gorilla enclosure or something. And the fact that he was alone so much is sad.