Will SeaWorld’s Killer Whale Trainers ever be Safe?

Hours before the 1-year anniversary of the death of a killer whale trainer, SeaWorld announces they are spending tens of millions of dollars on new safety devices, drawing skepticism from former trainers, marine mammal professionals and journalists.
 
 
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Tags:
Seaworld
Tilikum
Trainer
Dawn Brancheau
Safety
Death
Anniversary
Water
Killer Whale
Orca

Industrys:
Science
Environment
Entertainment

Location:
St Pete Beach - Florida - US

Feb. 28, 2011 - PRLog -- In a well-orchestrated announcement, released just hours before the 1-year anniversary of the death of trainer Dawn Brancheau, SeaWorld says they are spending tens of millions of dollars to outfit their performance pools and trainers with “safety” devices intended to prevent loss of life should another attack occur.

The PR move, designed to divert attention away from this tragedy, was reported last week by the Orlando Sentinel and the CBS Early Show as SeaWorld plans to resume “waterwork” in their killer whale performances at all three of its U.S.-based theme parks. The announcement comes despite the unresolved conclusions of the upcoming OSHA vs. SeaWorld hearings where it is anticipated that SeaWorld will ask a judge to seal the details from the public as SeaWorld challenges OSHA’s citation for willfully placing their employees at risk.

As the details of the tragic incident on February 24, 2010 continue to unfold, it increasingly appears that Dawn’s death was a calculated risk the marine park was willing to take in the preservation of their signature “Shamu” shows, which are at the core of the theme park’s multi-billion-dollar entertainment business. But former SeaWorld trainers, marine mammal professionals and journalists continue to come forward and speak out about the safety deficiencies, the negative effects of killer whale (orca) captivity and the details surrounding the tragic, yet avoidable loss of Mrs. Brancheau.

While graphic and painful, these details need to be brought to light in order to avoid future tragedies and to expose the exploitation of killer whales and trainers alike. On a date that should have been reserved as a day of reflection and remembrance, SeaWorld instead chose to use this sad anniversary as another opportunity to promote themselves as a caring, responsible institution with the best interest of the orcas, trainers and the public in mind. With SeaWorld’s lack of discretion, it was necessary for the ugly truth to be made public, mindful of the grief and pain the family and friends of Dawn must feel. By revealing these disturbing facts, it is hoped that another unfortunate incident can be averted and is not intended to add to their sorrow. Our hearts truly go out to all who knew Dawn, especially her family, friends and coworkers during this upsetting and difficult time.

On Saturday, February 26, 2011 author and journalist, David Kirby, appeared on Fox News to discuss these issues as well as the negative effects of orca captivity: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QFAH-sbOWTA



Among the proposed “safety improvements” unveiled by SeaWorld, the marine park says it has designed rising pool floors that can lift killer whales out of the water in perhaps less than a minute's time. And the company says designers are researching rapidly expanding mechanisms that trainers could use in an attempt to quickly pry open a whale's jaws in an emergency. Last year, it was necessary for Tilikum’s mouth to be pried open during recovery operations.

The company also intends to employ underwater vehicles that could be used to distract an out-of-control killer whale with pulsing lights and whale vocalizations… essentially an “underwater robotic rodeo clown”.

In addition, SeaWorld said it intends to eventually outfit its trainers with emergency air supplies that feature automated breathing regulators and provide two-to-five minutes of air for a trainer trapped under water… a “false solution” according to several former trainers.

These proposed changes are on top of other inadequate safety improvements SeaWorld has made in recent months, including installing removable guardrails around stage ledges and "net boxes" that reportedly deploy quickly in an emergency. However, none of these proposed safety measures will sufficiently ensure the safety of its trainers. In fact, many are viewed as increased risks as more and more of these devices are introduced into the killer whales’ existing unnatural habitat.

In our full report, you’ll find reactions from ex-killer whale trainers who offer their perspective on these safety proposals as well as the details surrounding the tragic deaths that have occurred at marine parks throughout the years. While the descriptions and accounts contained in our full report may be graphic and painful, they are being brought to light in order to avoid future tragedies and to expose the exploitation of trainers and killer whales alike.

On a date that should have been reserved as a day of reflection and remembrance, SeaWorld instead chose to use this sad anniversary as another opportunity to promote themselves as a caring, responsible institution with the best interest of the orcas, trainers and the public in mind. With SeaWorld’s lack of discretion, it was necessary for the ugly truth to be made public, mindful of the grief and pain the family and friends of Dawn must feel. By revealing these disturbing facts, it is hoped that another unfortunate incident can be averted and is not intended to add to their sorrow. Our hearts truly go out to all who knew Dawn, especially her family, friends and coworkers during this upsetting and difficult time.

You can read this complete report with exclusive interviews, important links, video, photos and more here: http://theorcaproject.wordpress.com/2011/02/28/seaworld-s...

For the latest updates, additional content, links to related documents, news and stories, visit www.theorcaproject.com or http://theorcaproject.wordpress.com/

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The Orca Project is a non-profit organization where ideas, news and information are shared to raise awareness about Killer Whales in captivity, their exploitation by Marine Mammal Parks and the freedom of their wild counterparts around the world.
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