We belong to SeaWorld in San Diego.
We love the place and we fully support so many of the excellent programs that they sponsor. Particularly the marine rescue program which has been instrumental in saving and rehabilitating the endangered manatee.
And of course we adore our beluga whale, "Grandma."
But I'll admit, I've never understood the philosophy behind the Shamu show. It is absolutely crazy that people will put themselves in a tank with nature's most fierce, albeit often docile, predator. What is the purpose? To show what these highly intelligent marine mammals can be trained to do?
OK sure, that IS pretty cool.
But let's just imagine for a moment they're having an "off" day.
Everyone is probably familiar with the tragedy at SeaWorld in Florida last Wednesday where the 40-year old trainer was killed by the 30-year old male orca whale, Tilikum. From what I gather, the orca actually bit Dawn Brancheau off the swim platform. She didn't accidentally fall in to pool as was previously reported.
She was snatched off her feet and dragged through the water and I can't even begin to fathom the sheer terror that went through that woman's mind as she was batted around like a toy before being pulled to the bottom of the tank.
In 2006, we had a close call with one of the trainers at the "Believe" show here in San Diego. The trainer was in the tank with the whale and part of the skit involved going to the bottom of the pool and then, balancing on Shamu's snout as it jumped out of the water.
After the incident occurred, it came out that Shamu was feeling a little punchy that day and everyone should have paid better attention to his cues. But they didn't. So when the killer whale pulled the trainer to the bottom of the tank and held him there for several minutes, the guy nearly drowned.
To me, that's an excellent lesson learned!
Do NOT piss off Shamu.
And you want to know what pisses off Shamu?
Giving a pod of eight (or more) killer whales a glorified swimming pool to call home. When their home is the ocean. Better known as that watery space that constitutes 71% of the earth's surface.
Despite what good SeaWorld does with these animals, orcas are simply not designed to be kept in an environment that is 1/1,000,000,000,000,000 of their living space and expected to thrive.
From what I've read, the whale responsible for the drowning this past week, has been involved in two other human deaths. The first occurred in 1991, when a total of three whales killed a trainer at Sealand Water Park in Canada. And again, in 1999, the corpse of a nude man was found splayed out on Tilikum's back. The guy purportedly hid until the park was closed and then, in an attempt to score a Darwin Award, stripped down to his birthday suit and went for a dip with the killer whales.
I can't help but wonder what kind of impact will these human deaths have on the other killer whales in captivity with Tilikium? Will they be more prone to attack? Seeing that they are among the most intelligent creatures on earth, surely they know what's going on. Don't you think? If you don't agree, you might need to drop the 1977 movie Orca in to your Netflix queue.
So in my humble opinion, after this most recent incident in Florida, I think that Tilikum should be catapulted back in to the ocean. Or perhaps, safely transported so he can live out his final years in an Iceland sea pen. There is no doubt, this particular whale needs to be returned to his natural habitat, post haste.
And for all the other killer whales that must remain in captivity, swimming around a tank and splashing people seated in the first 20 rows more than sufficiently highlights the supreme intelligence of these beautiful creatures. Trainers should stick to swimming with the dolphins - an animal that more closely matches it's own body weight.
Those are my thoughts.
What are yours?