Experts and critics question intentions of orca in SeaWorld Orlando trainer death

Posted Thursday, February 25, 2010 9:31 PM | Contributed by Jeff

Homicide investigators in Orlando said Thursday that the death of a trainer at SeaWorld on Wednesday occurred when the theme park’s largest male Orca whale grabbed the trainer by her hair while she stood in shallow water, and dragged her into a deep pool. Was the 12,000-pound Orca acting violently, possibly because of stress from captivity? Or was he just playing?

Read more from The New York Times.

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Thursday, February 25, 2010 11:16 PM
rollergator's avatar

Questioning the intentions of the orca? I'm sorry, that's a little bit much for me. At first, when the park reported that Dawn B. slipped and fell on the ledge near the tank, it struck me that Tillie might have grabbed her out of a "startle response" (instinctual). While now that seems unlikely, and it might really have been "rough play", trying to guess what was going on in the mind of the whale is utterly preposterous IMO.

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Friday, February 26, 2010 1:14 AM

That piece is just bizarre. Maybe its just meant tongue in cheek but I doubt that. Trying to analyze the animal's intent and talking with experts about that intent is silly. Don't see how anyone will be able to show/prove the intent of the animal.

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Friday, February 26, 2010 6:08 AM

Supposedly this whale was involved in other deaths. Why were people still taking chances with it?

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Friday, February 26, 2010 6:45 AM

To be fair, I don't think you can really say other deaths in the plural sense. The 2nd guy that died in this whale's tank was some idiot who snuck in at night and somehow wound up in the tank. That's just Darwinism running it's course.

I do agree that it's absured to be questioning the motives of the whale. Possibly more absured than all the people calling on Sea World to just dump all of these whales back into the ocean, which would be a certain death sentence for them.


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Friday, February 26, 2010 10:10 AM

Do they have Lucas' translator so that the Orca can talk to them?


John
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Friday, February 26, 2010 10:46 AM
Carrie M.'s avatar

Well, I do think it's valuable to point out, though, that if Tilly were trying to be violent or aggressive, there would be no doubt to that affect in the damage he could have done. People just aren't meant to breathe underwater, so they can't be played with down there for long.


"If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins." --- Benjamin Franklin

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Friday, February 26, 2010 11:37 AM

It's impossible to tell what Tilly's intentions were, but it seems to me like Carrie said, Just playing. I myself think this because an Orca could have done a lot of damage faster , opposed to playing or "thrashing" as the media calls it. But I'm not an animal expert..

Last edited by JoshuaTBell, Friday, February 26, 2010 12:53 PM
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Friday, February 26, 2010 11:52 AM

As to the trainer, I am not sure there is much more damage possible than dead.

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Friday, February 26, 2010 11:58 AM
Carrie M.'s avatar

I think you know what was meant by "damage". If not, please let me know and I'll explain further.


"If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins." --- Benjamin Franklin

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Friday, February 26, 2010 1:24 PM
rollergator's avatar

ilovethewildone said:
Supposedly this whale was involved in other deaths. Why were people still taking chances with it?

There have been a total of four deaths involving people and orcas kept in enclosures. Tilly is now at least partially responsible in three of them.

As for "taking chances", no trainers were permitted to swim with Tillikum. From now on, I'm sure any contact at all will be restricted to people with two feet firmly on dry land (i.e., not on the ledges/slides).

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Friday, February 26, 2010 1:44 PM
Jason Hammond's avatar

When I read the title of this thread, all I could picture was the Orca sitting in a room being interrogated by the cops.


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Friday, February 26, 2010 1:44 PM
CoasterDemon's avatar

It used to be OK to have 'weird' humans in cages and make money off of them (see the 1932 movie 'Freaks'). "I don't wanna be a Pinhead no more!"

They didn't like it. Animals probably don't like it either. Not a big stretch. It's slavery, and probably not fun, sad and very painful for the animals.

Seaworld seems like a nice place, look at the detail to the Manta coaster - very cool. Kraken too, very nice. Lets keep the animal tributes and let the animals go - or stop bringing them in.


Billy
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Friday, February 26, 2010 2:22 PM
ApolloAndy's avatar

Slavery? Really? I'm pretty sure actual human slaves would laugh at your comparison.

Last edited by ApolloAndy, Friday, February 26, 2010 2:23 PM

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Friday, February 26, 2010 2:45 PM
Jeff's avatar

What kind of silly nonsense is that? Again, I think you need to look at Keiko's story. He liked people, and like almost every other orca in captivity, doesn't know life without them.


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Friday, February 26, 2010 6:33 PM

Its my understanding that Keiko was born in the wild and later held in captivity. If that is true, his case only shows that if you take a wild animal, give it easy free food and put it in a situation where it will have much more contacts with humans and much less interactions with other whales that it would have in the wild, that animal will at some point lose its ability to find food on its own and will tend to better deal with humans than it does its own kind (particularly if you are looking at its own kind in the wild). None of that seems very surprising. But because of that, there are big problems with releasing animals held in captivity long term into the wild (whether they were originally wild or were born in captivity) and in many/most cases, that will probably be impossible. But that doesn't really mean much with respect to the issue of whether we should hold them in captivity in the first place.

And I agree that the slavery comparisson isn't valid. Its similar in terms of having a living creature against its will but humans have more rights than animals so the issue isn't the same at all.

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Friday, February 26, 2010 6:37 PM
sws's avatar

rollergator said:
There have been a total of four deaths involving people and orcas kept in enclosures. Tilly is now at least partially responsible in three of them.

Seems like we may now know what Tilly's intentions are. I'm afraid we're dealing with a serial killer whale.

This 6 ton dominant male apex predator is just doing what nature intended it to do.

Last edited by sws, Friday, February 26, 2010 6:39 PM
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Friday, February 26, 2010 8:20 PM

I'll disagree with the slavery comment also. These animals are never whipped, beaten, strangled and killed. They may be held in a small enclosure compared to the wild, but so are dogs and cats. People have birds in cages at home that are more confining than Shamu's enclosure.

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Friday, February 26, 2010 9:14 PM

CP Chris said:
To be fair, I don't think you can really say other deaths in the plural sense. The 2nd guy that died in this whale's tank was some idiot who snuck in at night and somehow wound up in the tank. That's just Darwinism running it's course.

I do agree that it's absured to be questioning the motives of the whale. Possibly more absured than all the people calling on Sea World to just dump all of these whales back into the ocean, which would be a certain death sentence for them.

An article on the resumption of the shows said he was involved in two deaths in Canada, before he was bought by Sea World.

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Friday, February 26, 2010 9:15 PM

Am I the only one who now thinks that trained animals really do not belong at "Theme Parks."

When I see the tiger exhibits of the Golden Kingdom area of Great Adventure, I can't help but think that between the rumble of the rides and constant traffic of people, one day one of these fantastic creatures may think "that's enough"....and go after a trainer. I have never seen the show though, and I do know it is popular.

Even Siegfried and Roy, the entertainers in Vegas who provided their tigers with excellent care and constant training, were lured into a false sense of security and Roy almost lost his life because of it.

I am no marine biologist, but I do know that whales are migratory animals who often live, play and hunt together in pods. They were not bred to jump through hoops and give humans piggy back rides...or to work as a logo for a company.

I once did the Discovery Cove thing with my family and I went in the lagoon to swim with a dolphin. As I was pulled along, I couldn't help but think that I am at such a disadvantage to the graceful creature I was swimming with. It's his world, not mine. Yes it was beautiful, but I was more than a little bit scared of the possibility that something could happen.

Perhaps a whale watching boat would be a better alternative to everyone involved.


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