RELEASE - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Garrett or Susan Berta
stress and frustration are inevitable in captive orcas.
the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued its report on the
circumstances that led to the brutal death of Dawn Brancheau at SeaWorld in
Orlando, Florida last February, and outlined measures needed to prevent such
tragedies from happening again. OSHA issued one "willful" citation, and fined
SeaWorld $75,000, for exposing its employees to hazards when interacting with
killer whales. A willful violation is "one committed with plain indifference to
or intentional disregard for employee safety and health."
to today's San Diego Union-Tribune: "If the fine stands and SeaWorld is
forced to meet new safety standards, it could mean an end - or at least
substantial changes - to the long-running attraction at SeaWorld San Diego and
other venues of having trainers swimming with the largest carnivores in
record is clear that confinement of orcas in amusement parks results in extreme
frustration and stress. Constant manipulation by trainers and management, loss
of extended family, concrete walls with steel gates, and lack of exercise all
lead to chronic illness (http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=14631&id=100001044495673&fbid=130892610288888&ref=mf)
and the death to date of over 150 orcas in captivity since 1965, all in their
youth or young adulthood.
not surprising that park employees working with highly stressed orcas also
suffer injuries and death. At least 50 violent incidents and four deaths have now
been attributed to captive orcas (http://www.orcahome.de/incidents.htm).
In 2006, for example, a trainer at SeaWorld in San Diego was dragged by his
broken foot at least twice to the bottom of the 30' tank and nearly drowned. At
one point the whale, Kasatka, lay down on top of the the trainer for about a
minute. California OSHA's initial report (http://www.orcanetwork.org/captivity/070302seaworldreport.pdf)
on that incident noted that "The contributing factors to the accident, in
the simplest of terms, is that swimming with captive orcas is inherently
dangerous and if someone hasn't been killed already it is only a matter of time
before it does happen."
inspection of the famous Connell video of the Dine With Shamu Show on Feb. 24,
just seconds before Brancheau entered the water, shows that both Tilikum and
Brancheau are moving leftward in tandem. She has no means of locomotion at that
point, and there's no water current that would push both her and Tllikum, so
the only explanation is that he has grasped her arm (or upper torso) and is
slowly pulling her in. Her hair is visible down her back and is clearly not in
his mouth. This indicates a deliberate action on Tilikum's part, not a
reflexive impulse to grab her flowing pony tail, as SeaWorld would have us
surprising that such hostile interactions with trainers don't happen more
often. For context, it helps to know that free-ranging orcas have never
harmed a human. Even when orcas were being captured, when divers and handlers
were in the water or in small boats among the orcas during capture operations,
as the mothers were being poked and driven away with sharpened poles while
their young were being wrapped in nets and forced into slings, never did the
mothers or calves or any of the accompanying whales strike out with even the
slightest shove or flick of a fluke. This exemplary restraint is the norm among
all the many diverse communities of orcas worldwide, whether they specialize in
foraging for fish or hunting and killing 8,000 pound sea lions.
are self-aware, like humans, and their actions are almost always conscious and
deliberate. They tend to cooperate with their prevailing social setting, even
in captivity, and the baseline for orca behavior everywhere is to never strike
out against humans, so even if only a minority of captive orcas assault humans
in some way, and then only rarely, it indicates that the stresses must be
extreme and are in effect throughout the captive population. There are also
many instances of self-harm by orcas, from gnawing on gates or concrete,
leading to severe tooth damage, to bashing their heads against the walls.
may represent an extreme case of deprivation and frustration, but all captive
orcas are in some way suffering the same sorts of constraints, and thus the
potential for acting out without warning when the opportunity occurs must be
considered for all of them.
Unfortunately there seems to be no way to mitigate the harm done by captivity
to orcas, or the danger for humans working around them, short of relocating the
whales to more natural settings. Orca Network would like to see the practice of
public display of captive orcas phased out, case by case, with transitions to
retirement facilities in bay pens when feasible
Contact Orca Network at firstname.lastname@example.org
or check out our website
for more information.