Killer whale kills
February 24, 2010 1:16 PM   Subscribe

Killer whale kills at theme park.
posted by found missing (130 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Whoa, it's killed twice before?
posted by yellowbinder at 1:18 PM on February 24, 2010


I thought they were supposed to be called orcas these days. You know, so that people wouldn't be prejudiced against them.
posted by dunkadunc at 1:19 PM on February 24, 2010 [6 favorites]


Shamu wow.
posted by fourcheesemac at 1:20 PM on February 24, 2010 [20 favorites]


You know, I find aquatic life as interesting as the next person, but something like a whale should probably be out in the ocean. Not in a tank doing tricks 4 times a day.

Oh and:

.

For the person who died.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:22 PM on February 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


Working at a water park with killer whales has always seemed like being a preschool teacher at a school where they give the kids armed weapons before class every day. Pretty risky but you can't exactly blame the kids when you get shot.

From the article:

Were you at Sea World today?
Do you have information, photos or video of what happened at the Killer Whale tank? We would like to talk to you. E-mail us at...


Stay classy Orlando Sentinel.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:23 PM on February 24, 2010 [8 favorites]


You know, they call them killer whales...
posted by otolith at 1:24 PM on February 24, 2010 [9 favorites]


.

That's really sad and horrifying.

when I was a little kid I was chosen out of the audience to sit on a killer whale. YIKES.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 1:25 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Tillikum, nicknamed "Tilly," has a controversial past. The large whale was blamed for the drowning of one of his trainers in 1991...[and] was involved in a second incident when authorities discovered the body of a naked man lying across his back in July 1999.

Red flags, much?

This awesome film changed my opinion of keeping whales and dolphins in captivity. Stress can do terrible things.
posted by sallybrown at 1:27 PM on February 24, 2010 [8 favorites]


They're actually huge porpoises, not whales at all. Still cetaceans though.
posted by Mister_A at 1:28 PM on February 24, 2010


And yes, huge powerful intelligent carnivores are probably not really good pets.
posted by Mister_A at 1:29 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Imagine, an enormous carnivore killed a smaller animal. Whoever would have expected it.
posted by Caduceus at 1:30 PM on February 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


And yes, huge powerful intelligent carnivores are probably not really good pets.

Dr. Malcom? Is that you?
posted by brundlefly at 1:31 PM on February 24, 2010 [7 favorites]


My sympathies go to the deceased trainer's family. That said, I wonder if any of the audience members who witnessed this tragic event paused to feel bad for a moment at participating in a form of entertainment that so frustrates and depresses these captive creatures, which are not known to be dangerous to humans when left in the ocean. I wonder if the trainer ever did.
posted by [user was fined for this post] at 1:32 PM on February 24, 2010 [7 favorites]


. for the trainer

. for the whale that will (should?) be put to death

This kind of misbehavior is endemic of capturing these creatures to begin with, isn't it?
posted by abc123xyzinfinity at 1:32 PM on February 24, 2010


Brundlefly! Eponysterical-ish!
posted by Mister_A at 1:33 PM on February 24, 2010 [9 favorites]


An especially sad story, as the trainer most likely chose that profession out of a genuine love for the animals.

But, yeah, we should probably only hold wild animals captive if they're injured or somehow unable to survive on their own in the wild.
posted by Atom Eyes at 1:38 PM on February 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


Whoa, it's killed twice before?

From the article: "Authorities later concluded the man, who had either snuck into SeaWorld after hours or hidden in the park until it closed, most likely drowned after suffering hypothermia in the 55-degree water."

I figure once you climb into a tank with an Orca in the middle of the night, you're pretty much asking for trouble.
posted by fight or flight at 1:38 PM on February 24, 2010 [9 favorites]


Free Tilly!
posted by FelliniBlank at 1:39 PM on February 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


Working at a water park with killer whales has always seemed like being a preschool teacher overseer at a school plantation where they give the kids slaves armed weapons before class work every day.
posted by rusty at 1:41 PM on February 24, 2010 [14 favorites]


Assuming humans ever get to the point of being able to quantify consciousness, I'd imagine we're going to be pretty sheepish about the whole 'zoo' thing, looking back.

. for the trainer, and the killer whale.
posted by Pragmatica at 1:41 PM on February 24, 2010 [7 favorites]


Every time I see one of the MarineLand Canada commercials where an orca comes up and gives a little girl a "kiss" I cringe. These are large, powerful and intelligent predators for whom captivity is quite likely torture. That this doesn't happen more often is the real story.

While it's obvious that most people would never have a chance to see one in the wild there's very little to be learned (if anything) about them in some silly "show". It's time to put an end to the cruelty.
posted by tommasz at 1:41 PM on February 24, 2010 [12 favorites]


Atom Eyes: But, yeah, we should probably only hold wild animals captive if they're injured or somehow unable to survive on their own in the wild.

I would love to see whether anyone has done a study like this, but my guess (total guess here, based on family and friends) is that the great majority of SeaWorld and SeaWorld-clone visitors believe that is exactly why the animals are there. I had no idea, and no one I've asked did either, that the whales and dolphins are mostly perfectly healthy and are captured from the wild and bought and sold around the industry. Ditto for zoos.

The only time you tend to hear about marine life parks is when they're in the local news for rescuing some stranded Orca. So we all sort of naturally assume that's where the animals come from.
posted by rusty at 1:45 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


BTW, this is a tragedy for the trainer and her loved ones, I agree, lest anyone get the idea I am indifferent to the human life lost here. A sad story all the way around.
posted by rusty at 1:47 PM on February 24, 2010


Yea, hear hear rusty. Please don't interpret my comments as gloating or anything like that. It does not give me any sense of satisfaction to know that this (in my opinion) ill-treated beast killed a woman.
posted by Mister_A at 1:51 PM on February 24, 2010


Next thing you'll tell me is that New Orleans Is Sinking.
posted by GuyZero at 1:51 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


From the article: Were you at Sea World today? Do you have information, photos or video of what happened at the Killer Whale tank? We would like to talk to you. E-mail us at...

MCMikeNamara: Stay classy Orlando Sentinel.

How precisely would you suggest the newspaper acquire eyewitness accounts, documentary footage, or photographs of a completely unexpected but totally newsworthy event? What's not classy about this? They're a newsgathering organization, and they're trying to gather news.
posted by purpleclover at 1:51 PM on February 24, 2010 [6 favorites]


From the wiki article on Lolita, the oldest orca in captivity, who was captured from the wild at the age of 6:

"Now over 40 years old, Lolita is a large orca, measuring 22 feet and weighing in at approximately 8,000 pounds. Since her arrival to Miami Seaquarium Lolita has continued to perform 1-2 shows daily. She is housed in the aquarium's "Whale and Dolphin Stadium" - the smallest and oldest orca tank in the United States. Even though the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) regulations for the humane handling, care, treatment, and transportation of marine mammals [...] state that the primary enclosure for a killer whale must have a minimum horizontal dimension of no less than 48 feet, Lolita's tank remains only 35 feet across. The tank is estimated to be just one and a half times her size, with a depth of 20 feet at the deepest point and just 12 feet around the edges. Although Lolita has not seen another orca since 1980, she continues to vocalize in captivity with the unique calls used only by her family pod."

I think if I were being held in a bathtub only just big enough for me to turn around and made to perform twice a day for tiny hairless monkeys, I'd go pretty batshit too.
posted by fight or flight at 1:52 PM on February 24, 2010 [60 favorites]


The media loves stories like these. CNN pays people to monitor the walkie-talkie frequencies used by zoo keepers and park police at the National Zoo in DC. The last safety incident that happened there, something minor involving a tourist hopping a barricade and getting zapped by an electric fence, there was a news chopper over the park and calls from CNN to the media relations at the Zoo before the ambulance had arrived. Dog bites man doesn't cut it anymore.
posted by peeedro at 1:54 PM on February 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Sad day- for the family of the trainer whose life was lost, and for all the people (many of whom I would imagine to be young children) who witnessed it.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:55 PM on February 24, 2010


While it's obvious that most people would never have a chance to see one in the wild there's very little to be learned (if anything) about them in some silly "show". It's time to put an end to the cruelty.

But... what sort of example would that set? An orca kills, and suddenly we ban having orcas in captivity? One death, and we're giving in to their demands?

How long would it be before the lions rise up and demand their freedom? Imagine monkey house uprisings! Or worse... reptile house uprisings.

We must not let this setback deter us from our chosen course. We must not negotiate with these seagoing mammalian terrorists.

(oh, and... .)
posted by MrVisible at 1:56 PM on February 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


This is an Orlando Sentinel article reprinted in the LA Times?
link to Orlando Sentinel version featuring more media, etc.

.
posted by cavalier at 1:57 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


fight or flight: " The tank is estimated to be just one and a half times her size"

This is the equivalent of a human being confined in a 9' x 9' cell - or 81 square feet.

Supermax prison cells range from 77 to 87 square feet.
posted by Joe Beese at 1:57 PM on February 24, 2010 [13 favorites]


If you've ever seen the video of a killer whale riding right up onto the beach and snatching seals from the shoreline then yeah... you're probably also wondering why this hasn't happened earlier.
posted by PenDevil at 1:58 PM on February 24, 2010


Large predator does what large predators do.

Maybe some day we'll get past the urge to keep menageries of large animals penned up to entertain us.
posted by killdevil at 1:58 PM on February 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


.

the whales and dolphins are mostly perfectly healthy and are captured from the wild and bought and sold around the industry. Ditto for zoos.

I don't know anything about marine parks, but that's not actually true of zoos. In the past, absolutely. But the majority of zoo animals now come from other zoo animals. And several species have been reintroduced to the wild from zoo breeding programs.
posted by Dojie at 1:59 PM on February 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Last weekend, in a sudden rush of sentimental hormones as a reaction to stress I've been under (working 24/7 quite a lot lately) I typed in an order for two tickets to Sea World and flights to Orlando for me and my daughter so that I could spend some quality time with her logged off from work for the first time in her life. I remembered how fascinated I was with killer whales, and seeing dolphins at Sea world, and I guess the nostalgia of my own memories made me insist on this vacation above any 'regular' beachtrip.

It wasn't until Monday that the haze let go of me and I googled up the previous incidents. I'm horrified by my selection now. There is no way on earth that I'll let her sit on a whale if she is selected like Solon and Thanks was.

also . for the trainer and Tilly.
posted by dabitch at 2:01 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


ThePinkSuperhero: "Sad day... for all the people... who witnessed it."

Park guest Victoria Biniak told Local 6 that the trainer was a veteran of SeaWorld and had just finished explaining to the audience what they would see during the performance. At that point, Biniak said, the whale came up from the water and grabbed the woman. "He was thrashing her around pretty good. It was violent."

Sounds like she considered the experience a better-than-expected value for her entertainment dollar.
posted by Joe Beese at 2:01 PM on February 24, 2010


They're actually huge porpoises, not whales at all. Still cetaceans though.

People like to say that killer whales are not whales, but it is hard to see any biological meaning to that statement, since the whales are not a monophyletic clade.
posted by grouse at 2:03 PM on February 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


This is tragic from every angle.

.
posted by missmary6 at 2:03 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


It seems likely that somebody caught this on video. I would probably watch it, given the opportunity. I don't know if that makes me ghoulish or just human.
posted by longsleeves at 2:04 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


longsleeves: "It seems likely that somebody caught this on video. I would probably watch it, given the opportunity. I don't know if that makes me ghoulish or just human."

Not mutually exclusive.
posted by Joe Beese at 2:07 PM on February 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'd imagine we're going to be pretty sheepish about the whole 'zoo' thing, looking back.


I don't know much about sea world or any of its ilk, so I can't speak to them. However, I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss zoos and such - they have a shitty history, but I really think their educational value is a necessity if we're ever going to hope for better conservation efforts.

I wish all of these animal parks would attempt to make the animal habitats as close to natural as possible for both the captive animal and the observers' sake. Gymnastics and flips should never enter the picture.
posted by Think_Long at 2:07 PM on February 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't know anything about marine parks, but that's not actually true of zoos. In the past, absolutely. But the majority of zoo animals now come from other zoo animals. And several species have been reintroduced to the wild from zoo breeding programs.

Not to mention that we learn tons about the animals in zoos, and as an outreach program to keep the public interested and involved in conservation efforts, they can't be beat.

So yeah, while zoos aren't really ideal in a lot of ways, and work to improve them is worthy effort, they do serve some important functions.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 2:07 PM on February 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


Meanwhile, across town, the Ring-Tailed Lemurs sat around their cage in the zoo looking suspiciously like they had Rings around their Tails.
posted by Ufez Jones at 2:09 PM on February 24, 2010 [9 favorites]


.

Since every aspect of this thread makes it more and more depressing. And thanks for the link to The Cove, sallybrown. I had heard of it a few months back, but forgotten about it. I'm not sure I have the emotional fortitude to watch it though...
posted by opsin at 2:10 PM on February 24, 2010


Guess they detained the whale before he could post a tweet in his defense.
posted by brownpau at 2:11 PM on February 24, 2010


First dolphins are killing dolphins, and now killer whales are killing people.

WTF, cute water mammals?
posted by elder18 at 2:11 PM on February 24, 2010


They should release it into the wild, so it can kill people there.
posted by Artw at 2:13 PM on February 24, 2010 [6 favorites]


yeah, so much for charismatic megafauna.
posted by dunkadunc at 2:13 PM on February 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: not a monophyletic clade.
posted by swift at 2:14 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


The meaning, grouse, is that orcas are members of family delphinidae, not one of the other cetacean families like balaenidae or physeteridae
posted by Mister_A at 2:16 PM on February 24, 2010


As has been pointed out, he's killed a human before.

And, hey, his name is Tillikum.

Till I kill um.

Anyway, I'm just surprised this doesn't happen more often; being penned up and enslaved like that is probably mild but prolonged torture.
posted by darth_tedious at 2:17 PM on February 24, 2010


In fact in "The Cove" the film-makers make the point that the distinction between whale and dolphin is artificial. They hold that dolphins should be considered whales, and hence "protected" under international whaling accords.

Japan and its proxies (mostly impoverished small oceanic countries with no history of whaling) maintain that dolphins are totally not whales, and so can be killed at will.

Depressing.
posted by etherist at 2:19 PM on February 24, 2010


This kind of misbehavior is endemic of capturing these creatures to begin with, isn't it?

Naughty wild carnivorous sea creature ten times the size of a man, get in your box! No walkies for you!
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:21 PM on February 24, 2010


I thought that we'd established that Dolphins should henceforth be called "Sea-Rapists"?
posted by Artw at 2:22 PM on February 24, 2010


does exactly what it says on the tin
posted by Bohemia Mountain at 2:23 PM on February 24, 2010 [7 favorites]


They're a newsgathering organization, and they're trying to gather news.

For the past year or so, the news media down here have been hopping onto facebook ASAP after any tragedy, and breathlessly reporting all the messages of condolence ("U R an angle!1!! Heven will B better with U in it!!1!!1") or else condemning the occasional trolls who "desecrate" memorial pages.

Police are reported to be interested in tracking down the trolls, and wringing their hands over what could be done to prevent this kind of behaviour.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:24 PM on February 24, 2010


Police are reported to be interested in tracking down the trolls

For real?
posted by Mister_A at 2:26 PM on February 24, 2010


Cuz just look under the bridge, man, it's easy.
posted by Mister_A at 2:27 PM on February 24, 2010


Fuck you, whale! (and dolphin!)
posted by mrgrimm at 2:28 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Dojie: I realized after saying that (yes, that does seem backward, now that I think about it...) that I wasn't actually all that sure about zoos. So thanks.
posted by rusty at 2:33 PM on February 24, 2010


I mentioned this in the dolphin thread a few down, but Orca attacks on humans are exceedingly rare and done only (almost exclusively?) by animals in captivity.

When I found this out a few years ago, I was actually a bit amazed by it. I mean, how many other wild carnivorous predators can make that same claim? Practically everything has at least a couple documented attempts to see if we're food...
posted by quin at 2:35 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


For real?

Meanwhile, officers are investigating four Facebook profiles attributed to illegal content posted on a tribute page set up in [murdered schoolgirl] Trinity's memory.

The site was tarnished by sickening messages and pornographic images within hours of being established.

The messages followed similar postings on a tribute page for Elliott Fletcher, who died after he was allegedly stabbed by another student at school on February 15.

The material has shocked communities mourning the children's deaths.

[Queensland Premier] Ms Bligh has written to Facebook's headquarters in California asking the founder and chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg what can be done to stop tribute pages from being defaced.

posted by UbuRoivas at 2:36 PM on February 24, 2010


Wow, that's terrible, Ubu.
posted by Mister_A at 2:39 PM on February 24, 2010


Not to mention that we learn tons about the animals in zoos

Not to mention that we learn tons about the animalspeople in zoosslave camps

Still sound reasonable?
posted by regicide is good for you at 2:50 PM on February 24, 2010


The meaning, grouse, is that orcas are members of family delphinidae, not one of the other cetacean families like balaenidae or physeteridae

Yes, but that statement does not include a biologically coherent definition of what a "whale" is. A monophyletic definition of "whale" would be "all of Cetacea" (and of course cetus is Latin for whale). If you abandon cladistics, you could define it as "all of Cetacea minus Odontoceti," even though that would rule out killer whales, beluga whales, beaked whales, bottlenose whales, and sperm whales. Are you trying to define whales one level done as "all of Cetacea minus Delphinidae?" That now means that not only are killer whales not whales (as according to the well-known factoid), but now pilot whales aren't whales, but river dolphins are whales. Confusing. And I don't see what it has to do with porpoises since they are in an entirely different family.

This kind of misinformed pedantry reminds me of when people try to come up with definitions of "ape" that do not include humans. It can't be done unless you are going to derive arbitrary and nonscientific boundaries.
posted by grouse at 2:51 PM on February 24, 2010 [7 favorites]


Well, actually, regicide, you've really sort of drastically changed the meaning of things by changing those words.
posted by Mister_A at 2:52 PM on February 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


This is the beginning of the whalpocalypse. They're going to reclaim dryland. It's time to kill or be krill.
posted by allen.spaulding at 2:56 PM on February 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


Seems that every time someones dies in Tilikum's tank it's an accident that they are in it in the first place, and nobody is usually in the water with him during the show.
posted by dabitch at 3:00 PM on February 24, 2010


Grouse, my point is really that it may be interesting to some people to learn that "killer whales" are more closely related to Flipper than they are to the other creatures that occupy the "whale" slot in the popular imagination– the baleen whales and large toothed whales like the sperm whale. There's no need to be such a dick about things, nor to call me a misinformed pedant. You are a tiresome little person.
posted by Mister_A at 3:00 PM on February 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


it may be interesting to some people to learn that "killer whales" are more closely related to Flipper than they are to the other creatures that occupy the "whale" slot in the popular imagination

For sure, but that is totally different from what you said, which is that "they are not whales at all" and that they are porpoises (which is wrong under any definition). Keep cool, Mister_A. :)
posted by grouse at 3:06 PM on February 24, 2010


sounds like the whale does what it says on the tin...

also "monophyletic clade" is definitely my new bandname...

but mostly

.

this is terribly sad and I feel for the trainer's family and all those who witnessed this.
posted by supermedusa at 3:07 PM on February 24, 2010


the "whale" slot in the popular imagination

Rays have a slot. Whales have more of a socket.
posted by tigrefacile at 3:07 PM on February 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure I have the emotional fortitude to watch it though...

I think you'll be fine, although if you're really sensitive you might want to avoid it. Most of it is actually a fascinating caper/spy film, with a hefty pinch of geopolitical intrigue. The ending is pretty brutal, but everything else will make you more angry than sad. My very conservative carnivore zoo-loving father is all "Whale Power!" after seeing it. The Cove is awesome.
posted by sallybrown at 3:09 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is really sad. My heart goes out to her family and friends.
posted by Kimberly at 3:14 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was at Sea World in San Diego about three years ago. If you've never been there, they have large walkway/pavilions overlooking the whale tanks, which you can see on the upper left side of this image. Within these areas, there is always a guide from the park's education department (not trainers) there to answer questions about the animals. These people are fun to talk to, and they are quite knowledgeable.

At the end of a show, I was walking down this area, when people suddenly started shouting and pointing. Down in the tank, four of the whales were nose to nose, with a plume of feathers, gore and blood between them. As it turned out, a seagull had landed on the water, and one of the whales had surprised it from below, and now all four whales were gleefully eating the bird and making a complete mess of the body.

"Does that happen often?" I asked the guide.
"All the time," he said. "The birds are after scraps of fish the whales leave behind. One time, it was a very large pelican, right in the middle of the show. Really, really gory. Lots of kids screaming and stuff."

Then he went on to tell me the most frightening animal story I'd ever heard.

One of the whales had learned to TRICK the birds into landing on the surface of the water, he said. The whale isn't hungry. This is what he does for fun, he said.

The whale would hold back bits of food in its mouth, and then wait for the water surface to settle. Then it would spit some of the fish out, where it would float to the surface. The whale would then dive to the bottom and wait. When a bird landed, it would rocket to the surface and grab it.

"Dude," I said. "Are you sure you're not imagining this?"

"No, all the guides and trainers know about it and have seen it. We're wondering if this whale is actually trying to teach this behavior to the others."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:26 PM on February 24, 2010 [58 favorites]


Then he went on to tell me the most frightening animal story I'd ever heard.

I linked to a video of this a while back if you want to see it for yourself.
posted by quin at 3:39 PM on February 24, 2010


I linked to a video of this a while back if you want to see it for yourself.

This has happened multiple times, then. The video (great vid, btw) is dated 2008. The guide told me his story back in 2006.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:43 PM on February 24, 2010


When that Neko Case song first came out, I assumed it was a metaphor, but then I heard an interview, and it turns out it's just a song about how strange it is that we're surprised when wild animals kill people.
posted by Stylus Happenstance at 4:10 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I visited the Oregon aquarium where Keiko lived, just before he was finally shipped back to the fjords. He cruised out into the public area of his tank, scanned the crowd with a cynical, "Meh" sort of look, then slipped back to his private area. I was lucky to have seen him, because he rarely left his private area - and who could blame him?

Keiko was never really "rehabilitated" in the technical sense. But I felt like he was basically allowed to retire in the open ocean, rather than in a concrete tank.

The Keiko Foundation is now working to pressure the Argentinian government to release a wild-caught orca before it is sold to Six Flags. Click here for more info and to see how you can help.
posted by ErikaB at 4:11 PM on February 24, 2010


Not having been there since I was a kid, I don't think I realized quite how corporate and evil Sea World was until the Wikipedia editing scandal from a few years ago. Do you remember it? From the New York Times, 2007:
Last year a Wikipedia visitor edited the entry for the SeaWorld theme parks to change all mentions of "orcas" to "killer whales," insisting that this was a more accurate name for the species.

There was another, unexplained edit: a paragraph about criticism of SeaWorld’s "lack of respect toward its orcas" disappeared. Both changes, it turns out, originated at a computer at Anheuser-Busch, SeaWorld’s owner.
You can read about those edits directly in the discussion for that article on Wikipedia. Busch Entertainment is not interested in conservation, if that wasn't obvious before. They want to sell beer.
posted by cirripede at 4:15 PM on February 24, 2010


Captivity = prison.
posted by bwg at 4:35 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I just finished watching Star Trek IV again after a long time and this scene immediately jumped to mind:

Spock: They like you very much, but they are not the hell "your" whales.
Dr. Gillian Taylor: I suppose they told you that.
Spock: The hell they did.
posted by bwg at 4:38 PM on February 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


.
Very sad and tragic.

I prefer watching the mermaids at Weeki Wachee Springs...
posted by Ron Thanagar at 4:45 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


MCMikeNamara: Stay classy Orlando Sentinel.

How precisely would you suggest the newspaper acquire eyewitness accounts, documentary footage, or photographs of a completely unexpected but totally newsworthy event? What's not classy about this? They're a newsgathering organization, and they're trying to gather news.


You're right, information, interviews, and perhaps even photos are news.

Trolling for video of the event to drive up web traffic = Faces of Death disguised as news.

I don't think of myself as cynical, but I'd be shocked if I was overreacting on this one.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 4:49 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Once when I was fifteen we went to Orlando for a class trip. We went to all the theme parks, Disney World, Epcot, Universal, and of course, Sea World. The thing about Sea World, that you can't really grasp unless you've been there for any period longer than an hour is... it sucks. Besides the fact that it's essentially Gitmo for aquatic mammals there isn't really shit to do there (other than look at aquatic mammals stuffed into tiny enclosures and then eat ice cream shaped like said cramped aquatic mammals).

Being fifteen and being bored stupid I decided to bother one of the Sea World employees. So I asked her what turtle soup tasted like. Obviously, looking back on this I cringe. She just rolled her eyes and said "That's not funny." I walked away. And ya know, a part of me felt a little bad. I decided to make it up to her by asking a real question, a serious question, one that would show my appreciation not only for the subject of aquatic mammals but for the study of animals as a whole. Somewhat sheepishly I approached her again.

"Can you explain to me a little about the evolution history of dolphins? I heard somewhere that they evolved from an animal that used to be on land...? Is that true?"

But, to my surprise, instead of ingratiating myself with this Sea World employee, for some reason I only annoyed her further. She narrowed her eyes down at me and replied:

"We don't talk about evolution at Sea World."
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 4:52 PM on February 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


Holy shit, it's the same whale that killed Keltie Byrne in Vancouver. Holy fucking shit. I hope this family fucking ends up owning the park.

If this were my child, I'd probably be stopped at the park gates because I wouldn't quite be able to hide the ENORMOUS FUCKING RIFLE I'd be trying to sneak into the park.

I love pets. I love animals. I love Sea World. But dude, when the time comes, you have to shoot Old Yeller right between his fucking eyes, got it?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:11 PM on February 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


You can read about those edits directly in the discussion for that article on Wikipedia. Busch Entertainment is not interested in conservation, if that wasn't obvious before. They want to sell beer.

I am shocked, shocked to learn that the owner-propieter of theme parks tried to maintain their version of their own story on Wikipedia. Absolutely shocked.

What more, that these people are out to make money!!1!!11!

HAMBURGER.
posted by cavalier at 5:11 PM on February 24, 2010


When I first moved to Seattle in 1967, there was a sort of aquarium on one of the piers along the waterfront and they actually had an orcan in this teeny tiny tank at the end of the pier. And no security either--I walked in through the exit one time with a friend and actually saw the whale. There were a bunch of kids there, goofing around and one of them picked up this prop giant toothbrush and brushed the whale's teeth--it evidently was part of the show and the whale opened its mouth and obliged. There was not an official or employee in sight. It was a most pathetic and depressing experience. They got rid of the whale not soon after. Shit--I wonder if that was Namu.

The zoo then had the same flavor--a miasma of misery. I remember going with my friends into the great apes house when some yahoo blasted off an air horn next to the cage of a sleeping gorilla. Great fun. We called it the Seattle Animal Prison for years afterward.
posted by y2karl at 5:17 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Orca, not orcan--I am so terrible with the typos today.
posted by y2karl at 5:17 PM on February 24, 2010


cavalier, hey, thanks for the hamburger, but I guess my point is that places like Sea World (and many zoos) have an image they prefer to advertise—as beneficent, conservation-minded zoological parks who, as rusty remarked earlier, "only hold wild animals captive if they're injured or somehow unable to survive on their own in the wild." A great deal of their business, I'd imagine, depends on this public perception. To the extent that this is simply not true, yeah, I'd call them evil.

To be absolutely clear, it's not the Wikipedia editing that I find objectionable, or surprising. It's their treatment of these animals.
posted by cirripede at 5:24 PM on February 24, 2010


When that Neko Case song first came out, I assumed it was a metaphor, but then I heard an interview, and it turns out it's just a song about how strange it is that we're surprised when wild animals kill people.

If you're talking about this one, well, you made me tear up just thinking about it, and now that I've inevitably listened to it for the first time in a long time, I'm really, really sad about animals.

Poor tiger, poor whale.
posted by oinopaponton at 5:30 PM on February 24, 2010


I did my Grade 10 week-long work experience assignment at Sealand of the Pacific in Victoria, BC, when Tillikum was on display.

My job was to cut up herring for the seals and pick up litter. There was not a hell of a lot of work for me to do, so I started spraying seal shit off the platforms the seals rested on when not in the water.

I noticed that there was a lot of black, rubbery, whale snot stuck to the wall behind the stage of the whale tank. So, I let myself into the trainer's area of the whale pool and started scrubbing the whale snot off the wall. I could hear Tillkum, Nootka and Haida II coming up for air behind me but I didn't pay attention, except to think "Cool! I'm the whale pen!"

Then the head trainer saw me and got me the hell out of there. "These are wild animals," he said. "They could easily pull you under the water."

The confinement of whales in captivity for display is tragic. One of the original whales at Sealand, Miracle, died after an animal rights activist tried to set it free.

All of the original whales at Sealand came from Puget Sound and Georgia Straight (Tillikum, Nootka and Haida II came from Iceland or Norway), and they used to use dynamite and underwater explosives to herd the whales into coves and inlets where they could be easily captured.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:54 PM on February 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Then the head trainer saw me and got me the hell out of there. "These are wild animals," he said. "They could easily pull you under the water."

I had meant to add that a couple of years later those whales did exactly that to a trainer, and killed her. Sealand shut down after that.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:56 PM on February 24, 2010


If you're talking about this one, well, you made me tear up just thinking about it

I was actually referring to the one otolith linked above, "People Got a Lotta Nerve." I forgot about the tiger one.
posted by Stylus Happenstance at 6:03 PM on February 24, 2010


"I love pets. I love animals. I love Sea World. But dude, when the time comes, you have to shoot Old Yeller right between his fucking eyes, got it?"

Or you could just release him back into the wild.
posted by HopperFan at 6:16 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


The meaning, grouse, is that orcas are members of family delphinidae, not one of the other cetacean families like balaenidae or physeteridae

ice burn
posted by the bricabrac man at 6:22 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Or you could just release him back into the wild.


Tilikum was captured at age 2. There is no way he could be returned to the wild. Hopefully they'll find a nice, large pool for him, outside of the public spotlight.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:29 PM on February 24, 2010


Then he went on to tell me the most frightening animal story I'd ever heard.


Dolphins do it too. And they are teaching each other.
posted by hindmost at 6:29 PM on February 24, 2010


From an email by Erich Hoyt, who wrote 'The Performing Orca: Why the Show Must Stop' :

"I think that this is an awful tragedy for the trainer and her family. But that it is avoidable: orcas do not belong in captivity.

What I worry about is that things will be focussed on Tilikum, that he is an older male, and his history of having been involved in the death of two other people. Sea World or others may try to say that it is this one older male whale's fault. There are quite a number of other accidents that could well have been fatal that were caused by other captive orcas, females and males, although they do tend to be animals that have been in the parks for awhile.

As I reported in The Performing Orca and also in some detail in Orca: The Whale Called Killer, trainers have noted that orcas start to get bored and go a bit crazy after a few years in captivity. You must imagine a highly intelligent social mammal and a big predator normally travelling 100 kms or more a day, then taken from its family, stripped of its ability to socialize normally, to hunt and to travel. What it has left is its relationship to the trainer, but how long can that really keep them interested?

It is not surprising that an animal starved of company and stimulation will pull a trainer into the water, or try to keep them in the pool...even to the point of drowning them. Very sad, but again, we know how to correct this situation. Orcas are too big, too social, too wild to be kept in captivity."
posted by HopperFan at 6:29 PM on February 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


"Hopefully they'll find a nice, large pool for him, outside of the public spotlight."

I hope so, too. I didn't know how long he'd been in captivity, or much about how they determine which whales would be successful back in the wild.
posted by HopperFan at 6:31 PM on February 24, 2010


I read all of Eric Hoyt's books when I was a teenager. Good man.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:45 PM on February 24, 2010


Well, actually, regicide, you've really sort of drastically changed the meaning of things by changing those words.

I'm not sure I have, Mister_A, unless you explain how being held in captivity and compelled to perform for people's amusement, turning a profit for your captors in the process, isn't enslavement.

If zoos are good things because they let us "learn about animals," I guess we should be trying to encourage slavery so we can "learn more about humans." Obviously that's absurd, especially since slavery works by making people less human. But then why would it make any more sense for any other animal? That was my point.
posted by regicide is good for you at 6:59 PM on February 24, 2010


Zoos are a relic of the Victorian era when not much was known about anything, and so you had to bring back specimens to amaze and amuse the folks at home, as well as to index and catalogue and complete a collection. As the Eric Hoyt quote above points out, you can't just treat an individual animal as complete; animals are part of social groups and ecosystems that define their identity. We should be beyond gawking at animals, and we don't really need zoos to learn more about them.

Whales in captivity really are slaves. The belugas at the Vancouver Aquarium are treated like a profit centre. You can pay to spend the night with the belugas. The restaurant and bar overlooks the beluga pool - the paying seats (above and beyond admission) are the best in the house. The Vancouver Aquarium frequently hosts "singles nights" where you can attend mixers to meet members of the opposite sex.

Keeping whales and other large animals in captivity at private facilities is about nothing more than earning a profit at the expense of their freedom and sanity.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:35 PM on February 24, 2010 [7 favorites]


This is as good a place as any (relatively speaking) to say that I read the NYT story today about the chimpanzee attack in Connecticut last year (the cop who shot the chimp has PTSD) and sort of accidentally clicked through to pictures of the victim. Oh. My. God.

And I have to say, I totally understand the whole "they're wild animals and you shouldn't be surprised at what they do when they are taken out of their natural environment" thing; but, still, I pretty much really really don't like chimps now.

Orcas, on the other hand, I'm OK with. If they're going to take you out, they just eat you or drown you or whatever -- they don't completely fricking mutilate you.
posted by Mid at 7:39 PM on February 24, 2010


You'd think the the number of Pacific Northwest-related things called "Tillikum" or "Tillicum" were named for a native group, but apparently it's the Chinook Jargon term for "people" or "tribe." Why would so many things get named "people"?
posted by chomputer at 8:20 PM on February 24, 2010


when I was a little kid I was chosen out of the audience to sit on a killer whale. YIKES.

There but for the grace of Neptune...
posted by fairmettle at 8:31 PM on February 24, 2010


More on the first fatality, at Sealand--with horrifying background on what a terrible idea these shows (and tank living conditions) are to begin with.
posted by availablelight at 8:32 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


From al's link:

"Aggressive manifestations toward trainers have included butting, biting, grabbing, dunking, and holding trainers on the bottom of pools and preventing their escape. Several situations have resulted in potentially life-threatening incidents. In a few cases, we can attribute this behaviour to disease or to the presence of frustrating or confusing situations, but in other cases, there have been no clear causal factors ....

The Globe and Mail interviews a scientist who also says the Orca attack today was deliberate.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:06 PM on February 24, 2010


sorry for the trainer's family and loved ones. Captivity is a strange situation for humans and animals alike. This is what you get when you mess with us
posted by celerystick at 10:33 PM on February 24, 2010


> "The belugas at the Vancouver Aquarium are treated like a profit centre. You can pay to spend the night with the belugas. The restaurant and bar overlooks the beluga pool - the paying seats (above and beyond admission) are the best in the house. The Vancouver Aquarium frequently hosts "singles nights" where you can attend mixers to meet members of the opposite sex."


I went to the Aquarium in 2003 or 2004 as a tourist, not knowing exactly how terrible it actually is, let alone that there were performing animals there. If I remember rightly, the nasty, overpriced/littered/crawling with loud families food area was pretty much on top of the beluga performance area. The area they had to swim in was not large, and I didn't see much empathy or love for them from the woman barking out whatever shite she had to tell the crowds. It was not enjoyable, and I'd never go back - it reminded me of the polar bears in Bristol Zoo. One of the pair had died, and the other just paced and paced until they decided to put it out of it's own misery. The sheer lack of being in animals used like this is disturbing.

I'm not anti-zoo, I love visiting them most of the time and I think many good things can be achieved by the people that work there, but no creature should be rolled out to perform to us slack jawed idiots. Not on a daily basis, not monthly, not ever. I can't have sympathy for anyone who is injured/killed when they're involved in places like Seaworld. I wish I could, and I feel for their families left behind to shoulder the loss, but christ. We should be better than this.
posted by saturnine at 11:33 PM on February 24, 2010


KokuRyu's link (just above) is really interesting. And, like this whole sad story, sad.
posted by From Bklyn at 11:57 PM on February 24, 2010


If zoos are good things because they let us "learn about animals," I guess we should be trying to encourage slavery so we can "learn more about humans." Obviously that's absurd, especially since slavery works by making people less human. But then why would it make any more sense for any other animal? That was my point.

I've got a couple of hunting dogs, enslaved so as to do my bidding, right ?
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 6:40 AM on February 25, 2010


"I've got a couple of hunting dogs, enslaved so as to do my bidding, right ?"

Dogs are domesticated. Orcas and many other zoo animals aren't.

(Though PETA might disagree on the former.)
posted by HopperFan at 6:46 AM on February 25, 2010


Now I'm kind of horrified that my parents booked a family trip to DisneyWorld, including whatever they call their version of SeaWorld. How can I find out where their animals came from and how they're treated? It's going to be a bit of a shitstorm if I refuse to go, but I can't do it and live with myself if I know I'm complicit in an animal's suffering. Then again, I still eat meat. Gah, hypocrisy.
posted by desjardins at 7:21 AM on February 25, 2010


I can't stop picturing all the other orcas high-oneing each other.
posted by fish tick at 7:51 AM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


If zoos are good things because they let us "learn about animals," I guess we should be trying to encourage slavery so we can "learn more about humans." Obviously that's absurd, especially since slavery works by making people less human. But then why would it make any more sense for any other animal? That was my point.

I think that's a totally inflamed and inaccurate representation of what contemporary zoos are. Some of the best conservation and research efforts are happening at zoos around the world, as well as a ton of endangered species breeding programs.

National Parks like Yellowstone are essential to conservation for at least two reasons: one, an allotted and protected wilderness zone; and two, the fact that we humans are able to experience it first hand. Without that human experience, people would not have the same appreciation and passion for the outdoors. Zoos are extremely important to connect human and animal spheres in order to spark some form of compassion. Yes, at one point they were basically extensions of Victorian curiosity cupboards, but they've moved far beyond that era.

I'm not sure if this is a derail or not, but whatevs.
posted by Think_Long at 8:11 AM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure about Sea World, but my husband does this type of training as a volunteer. In fact, 90% of the trainers are volunteers. Pretty crappy way to die--no benefits, insurance, nothing.

.
posted by stormpooper at 9:06 AM on February 25, 2010


Think_Long, I don't think one can reasonably talk about zoos and national parks interchangeably, nor preservation of endangered species and display of non-endangered species.

If we can only develop compassion for other animals by imprisoning them, I fear we are right and truly fucked. Same goes for having compassion for a species, but not for its individual members. A cage is a cage is a cage.

I see what you're saying, and I appreciate where it's coming from, I just don't see how it applies to zoos. If we want people to have appreciation for the outdoors, as you say, we should stop paving it over.
posted by regicide is good for you at 11:16 AM on February 25, 2010


I have to agree. National and state parks are publicly administered; their mission, on behalf of the citizenry they serve, is to conserve and protect extant landscapes and ecosystems. The Organic Act of 1916, which established the NPS, stated its purpose:
. . . to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.
An entertainment park like Sea World has no such restrictions. It was until recently owned by Anheuser-Busch, a brewing company; now, I see, it's part of the Blackstone Group, a financial firm. It is a business, whose purpose is not to conserve or protect but to make money. That's just the magic of capitalism, but we can't pretend a private interest like this is ever going to have the public or ecological good in mind.

You're absolutely right that a lot of major species preservation and breeding programs are taking place in zoos today, but I don't think privately owned theme parks can be meaningfully compared with publicly held (and protected) commons like a national park.
posted by cirripede at 1:04 PM on February 25, 2010


but I don't think privately owned theme parks can be meaningfully compared with publicly held (and protected) commons like a national park.

Absolutely, and I think I mentioned in a comment upthread that I don't know much about Sea World and its ilk, so I can't speak positively of them (except for making frequent appearances in Jack Hannah's Animal Adventures if I'm not mistaken).

If we want people to have appreciation for the outdoors, as you say, we should stop paving it over.

The reason people don't have an appreciation for the outdoors is because we keep paving it over. Our talent for fucking up the planet proves that conservation is not an innate quality, but a learned one.
posted by Think_Long at 3:53 PM on February 25, 2010


The reason people don't have an appreciation for the outdoors is because we keep paving it over. Our talent for fucking up the planet proves that conservation is not an innate quality, but a learned one.

I agree, I'm afraid. And unfortunately, whatever innate impulse people do have for environmental stewardship and sustainable living is quickly diced up and fed to the industrial-strength wood chipper that is the profit motive. This is why it's so important to oppose even limited industry demands like building a road through a wilderness area—once they pave their way in, they're never going to come out.

I won't belabor my earlier points about Sea World, but if anyone is interested in learning more about it, a good place to start might be this very interesting PBS interview with Susan G. Davis, author of the book I linked to earlier (Spectacular Nature: Corporate Culture and the Sea World Experience).
posted by cirripede at 4:39 PM on February 25, 2010


If zoos are good things because they let us "learn about animals," I guess we should be trying to encourage slavery so we can "learn more about humans."

There are 600 Sumatran Tigers left in the world, and the wild ones are dropping quickly. The Wellington Zoo alone has bred another half dozen in the last decade, making for 1% of the world's population. But, I guess, according to you, we should just chuck them into the wild where they'll be poached ot lose their habitat, because that way they won't be kept in ideologically impure conditions.

Or did you have something other than ignorant nonsense and handwaving to offer international conservation efforts?

but I don't think privately owned theme parks can be meaningfully compared with publicly held (and protected) commons like a national park.

Funnily enough, the Staglands park north of Wellington, which is a commercial venture mostly operating as a model farm for town kids to go see horses and pigs and other domestic animals, is a DOC-approved breeding centre for Kea and Karearea, the latter of which are now highly endangered, but Staglands are breeding them successfully.

The key there is that the people involved actually care about the conservation aspect and DOC (currently) provide fairly vigorous oversigh.
posted by rodgerd at 12:22 AM on February 26, 2010


it reminded me of the polar bears in Bristol Zoo.

Damn, there's something I didn't need reminding about - witnessing that sorry spectacle in Bristol some time in the late 80's is one of the more depressing memories from my childhood, and put me off the idea of zoos for life. I actually had no idea until Googling just now that tragic bears were such a well-known case.
Thankfully no orcas or dolphins are held in captivity in the UK these days, though one polar bear remains at Edinburgh Zoo.
posted by anagrama at 3:03 AM on February 26, 2010


"fairly vigorous oversigh"

Whatever that is, it sounds good to me.
posted by HopperFan at 7:03 AM on February 26, 2010


Damage control

Synopsis: the whale was just playing
posted by KokuRyu at 11:28 AM on February 26, 2010


Orlano Sentinel asks: What did you think of the press conference?
posted by longsleeves at 1:01 PM on February 26, 2010


The news conference had value: Atchison announced the whale shows would resume Saturday, said the park is reviewing its protocol for dealing with the animals and saluted Dawn Brancheau, the trainer who died. But what about the news-conference visuals?

I’ve been television critic at the Orlando Sentinel since 1995. My favorite series in that time have included 24, Everybody Loves Raymond, Frasier, Mad Men, Damages, The Sopranos and True Blood.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:56 PM on February 26, 2010


Pod of Orcas attacks Gray whale and calf. (Warning: National Geographic Can Be Gruesome). (SLYT)
posted by fourcheesemac at 11:54 AM on February 27, 2010


Down in the tank, four of the whales were nose to nose, with a plume of feathers, gore and blood between them. As it turned out, a seagull had landed on the water, and one of the whales had surprised it from below, and now all four whales were gleefully eating the bird and making a complete mess of the body.

Mammals are scary things.

Back some time when I volunteered at an unnamed zoo, I observed the behavior of a young male orangutan that put your whales to shame. This particular orangutan was the youngest of the confined apes and completely shunned by the rest of them. No food sharing, no grooming, no shared eating or sleeping space; he was an outcast on every level of the social hierarchy, yet forced to share the limited space with the group. Because of this he had a number of peculiar habits and dysfunctional behaviorism.

I confess: I don't know much about ape behavior, including humans, as I'm more of a plant and fungi guy, but back then I was volunteering for some long-time caretakers so I got to see a little bit of everything. I can't adequately describe the situation that this orangutan found himself in, but I can tell you what I saw:

He caught pigeons and fucked them to death.

He would take his food or the popcorn in the enclosure out to the o-line to trap a pigeon with his hands. Then he would tear them apart with his penis, essentially using the bird as a masturbation toy. He would catch a bird once or twice a day, and then in less then ten seconds, fuck it to death. He'd catch a pigeon and use it as a meat sheath for his happymaker in a quick and violent manner.

This was all in plain view of the zoo visitors, but almost nobody would catch what happened because mammals are really quick and birds are dumb.
posted by peeedro at 8:32 PM on February 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


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