Friday, February 26, 2010

Newsy: Killer whale attack spurs captiviy concerns

On Wednesday the biggest killer whale in captivity killed its trainer at SeaWorld Orlando. An attack like this has never happened in Sea World’s history. Trainer Dawn Brancheau’s death is sparking debate over whether killer whales should be kept in captivity, especially when human life is in danger.

The whale, named Tilikum, had already been linked to two human deaths since the 1990s. SeaWorld officials knew this, so trainers never swam in the water with it. Brancheau was on the side of the tank when Tilikum pulled her in. She died soon after.

CBS and wildlife expert Jack Hanna sparred over the risk of working with whales: “I know that you and SeaWorld and all these organizations do a lot of good work to teach people, but is it worth the risk?"

Jack Hanna: "I take my hat off to SeaWorld that someone said, ‘Should we euthanize?’, 'bring it to SeaWorld.'"

But a blog in The San Francisco Chronicle says captivity is cruel, and that Sea World’s claims of research are unfounded: "If humans are known to crack under the strain of imprisonment, should we not expect the same of this brainy species? … The corporate exhibiting of killer whales today in show parks is for pure and simple profit."

ABC affiliate WPBF spoke with the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida, who says killer whale captivity is dangerous: “It's not surprising that out of anger or frustration or just confusion sometimes these animals react."

But San Diego’s FOX affiliate spoke with SeaWorld’s head trainer who says it WAS a surprise, because the trainers’ goal is to form relationships with the animals: “She was really familiar with his behavior and knew how to work with him, so this was quite an anomaly for us... We spend a great deal of time with these animals... Our whole goal is to have them trust us and want to work with us.”

So, should parks like Sea World keep killer whales? What should happen now to Tilikum?

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