Monday, March 1, 2010


First of all, I want to express my condolences to the family of Dawn Brancheau who died accidently while working with SeaWorld's orca whale Tilikum. It is very sad indeed for both Dawn and for Tilikum. I think SeaWorld made the right decision to keep Tilikum but to work with him with a bit more caution.
My friends know how I have an affinity for all sea creatures. People have come up to me saying stupid things like,"whatta think about that killer whale that killed that girl, eh? I think they should kill him.
I stand there speechless.
I am sure Dawn would be mortified to hear this kind of talk about her beloved whale.
To be honest, I am surprised that this sort of occurrence doesn't happen more often.
Let's stop and think about it. Here these highly social sea hunters are enclosed in this man made pool. Their only social interaction is with other whales that they are stuck with and their trainers.
Sure, it is really cool to see this beautiful whales up close like this. I went to SeaWorld when I was about 15 years old. I loved seeing the whales and dolphins. The one think that stuck me on a negative level was how loud and annoying the music was. I thought to myself how can those whales stand listening to that crap day and night everyday?
My dear Aunt Marie passed away right after Thanksgiving. . I was a bit numb and emotionally fried still reeling over her death. I had to pick up a few things for Christmas at Walmart. The first thing that hit me when I walked into the store was the "music".
The overhead music was blasting so called Christmas music by Whitney Houston and then a rap Christmas song by Snoop Dog.
It was pure torture. I had to get out of there.
I thought I was going to go out of my mind. I don't know if I was just being overly sensitive at the time but I couldn't stand it and, I still can't stand it.
It wouldn't surprise me that the whales go bonkers out of boredom and having to listen to that music screaming at them.
In the book, "Notes from an Underwater Zoo" written by Don Reed published in 1981 talks about his experience as a oceanarium diver at San Francisco's marine World.
He shares funny and wonderfully stories about his relationships with marine animals but also not so nice stories about (former) abuse, attacks by marine mammals on their trainers as well as on other tank companions.
It appears to me humans are almost "autistic" in reading and 'getting" animals social cues about what they want or don''t want and what is socially acceptable to them. Many of the social cues are very subtle.
Chris Davis is a parrot trainer at Lion Country Safari. She write a monthly column in "Bird Talk" magazine on dealing with behavioral issues with companion parrots. Many of the people who write to her complain that "all of a sudden my parrot turned mean". She explains to the person that the parrot gave the owner many subtle clues about what they found unacceptable but the person just didn't "get it" so the parrot responds by biting.
What I find that is very interesting is how we are almost "autistic" in getting animals social cues however one of the most interesting and insightful book I've read on understanding animal behavior was written by a woman with autism. She could see things that most people ignored.
The book is "Animals in Translation" by Temple Grandin.
It is one of those must read books.
As the patron saint, I will say a prayer for people to take the time to learn and understand animals rather than forcing what we want on to them.


  1. Ok...I have to say I completely disagree with keeping Tilikum in the show. I think they should let him go. He's made his point three times now... They should just put him back where they whale-napped him from in the first place. Here he was, swimming along in his own free as free can thing he knows, he's waking up in a tank, and someone is forcing him to do tricks. No wonder he's frustrated. I don't think his intention was to kill his trainer...or maybe it was. Who really knows? It is clear, however, that he was acting out, and demonstrating his frustration with being held captive. He has done his time... he has done his tricks... and now HE is done with all of it... let him go. To keep a wild animal (who has already expressed his discontent several times) captive for the almighty dollar is completely irresponsible, and dangerous. This won't be the last person he kills...which is why he's going to be a big draw now.

  2. I think one of the problems of "letting him go" is the process of finding a pod for him to join.
    This has been done before with some success and also with tragic results.
    It is a tough call.
    He is also very valuable as a stud. He has fathered 13 offspring in their captive breeding program.