The killer in SeaWorld’s midst
2013 07 26

By Tara Brady | The Irish Times

Captivating documentary ‘Blackfish’ uses the death of a trainer at the Florida attraction to examine the wisdom of keeping marine predators in captivity


Blackfish: “I never imagined I’d end up questioning SeaWorld’s practices and entire belief system,” says filmmaker Gabriela Cowperthwaite

In 2010, Dawn Brancheau, an experienced 40-year-old trainer at Florida’s SeaWorld, was killed by the Orlando theme park’s star attraction, a 12,000lb bull orca named Tilikum. SeaWorld officials called it an accident and were keen to identify Dawn’s ponytail – a potential plaything for a killer whale, it was claimed – as a contributing factor.

The tragedy, which unfolded in front of visitors just after a performance of the park’s signature Dine with Shamu show, provides a springboard for director Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s gripping new investigative documentary, Blackfish.

“I heard about the story when it was in the news and thought it was so tragic,” recalls the filmmaker. “I couldn’t imagine how a beloved trainer could end up being killed by a highly intelligent animal that she loved and who presumably loved her. That was my image of SeaWorld. I thought it was a happy place where killer whales were happy and would never be driven to kill.”



As soon as she started asking questions, Cowperthwaite, who had no previous history of animal activism and had no ambition to make an advocacy film, found herself shocked by what lay behind the glitzy theme-park facade.

“I’m a documentary filmmaker,” she says, “but I’m also a mom who took her kids to SeaWorld. I never imagined I’d end up making this kind of controversial film. I never imagined I’d end up questioning SeaWorld’s practices and entire belief system.”

Brancheau’s death, as the award-winning Blackfish reveals, was not an isolated occurrence. To date, Tilikum has been involved in the deaths of three people. The first incident dates back to 1991 when Tilikum and two female whales mauled and pulled a young trainer named Keltie Byrne to her death. Following Keltie’s death, Tilikum was moved to SeaWorld, Orlando, where, seven years later, the animal was involved in a second fatality. In July 1999, SeaWorld employees found the body of Daniel P Dukes (27) draped across Tilikum’s back, with multiple wounds.

SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, a publicly traded company since last year, has been quick to dismiss claims that its trainers were not “adequately informed about Tilikum”. Blackfish, though, presents various testimonies from former employees to the contrary.

“SeaWorld is claiming now that every trainer gets the quote-unquote ‘Tilly talk’ – that they explain that you do not want to be in the water with this animal; that the outcome is uncertain,” says Cowperthwaite. “However, if they had been open about the details of the previous cases, people would understand that they don’t even have to be in the water to be in danger. Tilikum has the ability to grab a trainer and pull them in much like he did with Dawn.”

Loving marine animals

Each of the SeaWorld trainers tells a similar story about their time at the park: they take the job at SeaWorld because they love marine animals, then, ultimately, they leave the job at SeaWorld because they love marine animals.

[...]

Read the full article at: irishtimes.com




Related Articles
Can Dolphins Really Heal the Sick, Or is Their Captivity Abuse?
Animals Are Moral Creatures, Scientist Argues
Death rituals in the animal kingdom


Latest News from our Front Page

Agenda 21: The BLM Land Grabbing Endgame
2014 04 23
Why is the federal government so obsessed with grabbing more land? After all, the federal government already owns more than 40 percent of the land in 9 different U.S. states. Why are federal bureaucrats so determined to grab even more? Well, the truth is that this all becomes much clearer once you understand that there is a ...
Fukushima radiation killing children, government hiding the truth
2014 04 22
Katsutaka Idogawa, former mayor of Futaba, a town near the disabled Fukushima nuclear plant, is warning his country that radiation contamination is affecting Japan’s greatest treasure - its children. Asked about government plans to relocate the people of Fatuba to the city of Iwaki, inside the Fukushima prefecture, Idogawa criticized the move as a "violation of human rights." Compared with Chernobyl, radiation ...
Why your fingerprints may not be unique
2014 04 22
Assumption that everyone has a unique fingerprint from which they can be identified through a computer database is flawed, says Home Office expert Mike Silverman Fingerprint evidence linking criminals to crime scenes has played a fundamental role in convictions in Britain since the first forensic laboratory was set up in Scotland Yard in 1901. But the basic assumption that everyone has a ...
Asteroids cause dozens of nuclear-scale blasts in Earth’s atmosphere
2014 04 22
Asteroids caused 26 nuclear-scale explosions in the Earth’s atmosphere between 2000 and 2013, a new report reveals. Some were more powerful – in one case, dozens of times stronger – than the atom bomb blast that destroyed Hiroshima in 1945 with an energy yield equivalent to 16 kilotons of TNT. Most occurred too high in the atmosphere to cause any serious damage ...
‘Editing DNA’ to eliminate genetic conditions now a reality
2014 04 22
Scientists have employed a revolutionary genome-editing computer technique that accurately identifies one faulty genetic “letter” among billions and effortlessly repairs a genetic condition in animals, paving way for human trials. The success, by MIT in Boston, is the latest achievement in the field of genome editing that has been catapulted into the spotlight through a technology that can pinpoint genetic faults ...
More News »