Posted Monday, September 19, 2011 12:46 PM | Contributed by Chitown
Nineteen months after an animal trainer was killed by one of its killer whales, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment heads to court next week to fight for the future of its iconic Shamu shows. SeaWorld is challenging the results of a federal investigation triggered by the Feb. 24, 2010, death of veteran trainer Dawn Brancheau, who was pulled underwater and killed by Tilikum, a 6-ton killer whale.
Read more from The Orlando Sentinel.
Frankly, I think OSHA is out of its league here. These are not machines with well defined points of danger and risk, they're animals. There will always be an inherent danger in working with the animals, and it's a risk that frankly the trainers understand and accept.
There is a lot more happening in this story that the article doesn't even touch on. Last week the Federal judge in this case ruled against the Brancheau family in their effort to keep all video and photographic evidence of Tilikum attacking Dawn out of public view in this specific case (which they have been successful doing in previous legal matters). Basically, OHSA can now use this type of evidence and put it out in the media for the public to see in order to "sway public opinion" which animal-rights activists are salivating to do. The reality is if this were to happen it would be nothing more than sensationalism on the behalf of our government and serves no purpose related to this case other than to bring more grief to the Brancheau family, in my opinion.
What happens between SeaWorld and OHSA in this case is going to have far-reaching affects on the entire zoological entertainment industry and frankly we should all be concerned. This was a very tragic accident and in my personal opinion SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment is going above and beyond spending millions of dollars to retrofit pools with fast rising floors, developing wet suits with emergency air supplies and creating other safety items to prevent such an accident from occuring again. Yet, for all the money spent you will never have a 100% guarantee on safety; animals, like people, are unpredictable and anyone working in this industry goes into it knowing that basic fact. I don't believe OHSA should have the right to rule in such matters of human interaction with animals.
+1 (to Jeff)
I would think Disney would be watching this very closely due to Kilimanjaro Safaris. While there are "invisible barriers" for most all of the more dangerous animals, I do know that the rhinos in particular can get spooked and will occasionally put on a bit of a defensive show, and they have pretty free roam over their area and can cross the vehicle path if they desire. Working with animals is completely different than machines that work in the same manner every time, unlike living creatures. Like you said, the trainers know the risks, but this is what they love to do, and they do it in the name of science and conservation. The research done in the park facilities is just as vital (maybe more so) as that done in the wild.Last edited by maXairMike, Monday, September 19, 2011 1:58 PM
News from the courtroom this afternoon by the AP:
Just out of curiosity, does anyone know if they continued to work with that Orca? Seems like the options are fairly limited at that point.Last edited by Fun, Monday, September 19, 2011 8:04 PM
@ Fun, I have read that Tilikum has returned to performing in shows, though I believe his role is extremely limited to a quick appearance making several big splashes on the audience. Beyond that, his daily care is limited to a handful of trainers who now must remain on dry land behind a wall barrier and they use "extension poles" to clean his teeth, do medical tests, provide human interaction, etc.
(Edit. Here is a link to a YouTube video showing Tilikum's return to performing. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJqvH5eej54 )
One of the issues in Dawn Brancheau's death was that she was in the water on a shallow ledge where Tilikum got hold of her because of her long ponytail; since the accident the policy now is ponytails are banned and/or must be wrapped tightly up for female trainers when on duty.Last edited by mlnem4s, Monday, September 19, 2011 9:47 PM
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