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SeaWorld(Every zoo in the USA) vs OSHA

posted by shamuboy on - last edited - Viewed by 394 users

A historic event is happening in our lifetime folks.

Last year on February 24th, 2010 a senior trainer by the name of Dawn Branchaeu was dragged under the water by a 6 ton Orca by the name of Tilikum. Since then, SeaWorld has been slapped with lawsuits by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. These lawsuits stating that SeaWorld willfully put their trainers in danger. Since then SeaWorld has added new rules to handling killer whales. Trainers are no longer able to enter the water with the whales. Female trainers have to tie their hair back in tight buns. Trainers aren't allowed to touch or hug around the whales mouths unless their is a Guard Rail or Physical barrier separating them. Two weeks ago, SeaWorld took OSHA to court against these rulings. The first witness called to the stand was Kelly Flaherty Clark, director of animal training at SeaWorld Orlando. She did not witness the death of Dawn but did have things to say about handling Orca's. Last year alone, three killer whales died. One at SeaWorld of San Diego and one at Orlando. Clark said, "Each whale could of been saved if we could of been in the water with them. We would of known right away if there was something wrong with them and we could of saved them." In that time, she broke down into tears. "The Original Baby shamu, Kalina was the whale that I built a relationship with. She was the first whale I ever jumped into the water with and we hit it out right from the start. She was our baby girl..." Kalina was among the three killer whales to die. Taima a female, died while birthing complications while Sumar died of Pnemonia.

SeaWorld spokesperson Jim Atchison says that the entire world is following this case. If the court favors in OSHA then all marine parks and zoos around the world will be affected by the way they handle large animals.

Why am I posting this? Because I work as a trainer at the Minnesota Zoo with the dolphins. Dolphins are cousins of the Orca's, and my company and bosses are watching the case closely. If they find in favor of SeaWorld we will no longer be able to work in the water with Dolphins.

Post your opinions and ideas here. I would love to hear them!

12 Comments - Linear Discussion: Classic Style
  • I'm a big supporter of Sea World. I have yearly season passes, have several friends who work as trainers and as performers, as well as have had brief working relationships with some of them. Obviously if people are against zoos and zoolike experiences then they won't favor Sea World, but I think the park does a lot in terms of educating the public in marine life while also conducting various marine rescue operations.

    OSHA does bring up good points and there needs to be greater evaluation of performers in the water with such large creatures. The simplest precaution, in my mind, would have been an available oxygen tank. I think reform does need to occur, but I'm not sure that needs to be to the extreme that is being presented in this case.

  • I'm also a big fan of seaworld, but I have only been twice (to the Orlando one). The only bits I really remember now are the observation tower, the manatees (outside a planetarium type thing) and the fantastic Shamu Show. I can't even begin to think what it'd be like with them not getting in the water. Boring, I should think. No more riding on their backs. No more swimming with them. Part of the show WAS that there was an element of aparrent danger there. It was amazing to see them being so gentle.

    What I think should happen: No worker should be MADE to get in the water with them. If they do, they should be given the option for various safety measures. The risks should also be spelt out for them, so they know just what they're getting in to.

    For many trainers, it's currently as if they've had their child ripped away from them, and put behind a permanent barrier.

  • I completely agree with the both of you. Some safety measures should put in place to make the trainers more safe. In Orlando, they are currently installing Fast Rising floors to lift trainers and whales up out of the water in under 60 seconds. They are also testing out a oxygen backpack that will be wore underneath their wetsuits, but, I think that is not needed. They had been in the water for 40 years prior without changing safety procedures once. The way it was there is that after two years for a new trainer building a relationship with a whale, gets to jump in the water if they feel the need or want to do so. After four or five years of relationship building in and out of the water, they are allowed to preform in public shows.

    I've talked to many trainers who say that each day they do a show, it's hard to put on a happy face. They just want to leap over the edge and dive right into the pool. They want to be able to hug the whale without having a stupid physical barrier separating them. They say it's like losing a best friend, or a daughter or son. The relationship people see in shows sees is the most stressed, rule based performances SeaWorld has ever put on. Trainers hate it and the whales hate it.

  • Plus, it'll be weakening the bond between whale and trainer, making them even more dangerous. And seeing as how the barriers probably wouldn't stop a determined whale (on serving to maybe knock the trainer unconscious), that's not great.

  • I think OSHA hasn't realized that the trainers know the risks when they jump in with these animals. Whales and dolphins are among the most easy-going of sea creatures, but in some cases, I think it's less animal aggression when something happens to a trainer, and more of the fact that the whale doesn't understand how fragile we humans are.

  • I personally feel that by going to a zoo you understand the possible dangers of an animal outbreak. Like where I live we had gorillas break out and go on a rampage some odd years ago. Do I go to the zoo? Yeah. Do I expect lions and monkeys to eat me? Somewhat, but I understand it's always a problem.
    Animals are like people. They too can snap.

  • Exactly. And what people don't understand is that this particular whale was not a animal that was involved in what SeaWorld calls "Waterwork". Tilikum was to large and to possesive of things to be involved in waterwork, though trainers did interact with him closely. Tilikum was usually brought out during the splash sessions of the shows, but would sometimes come out about halfway during the show, it was a ballad called "Something Far Greater." In this particular part, Trainers would interact with him closely. They would rub him down, kiss him, dance with him, imitate eachother and so on. But the thing that people don't realize is, Dawn was 5 inches in the water with him, enough for her entire body to be under neath the water when laying down. The slide out section where they would preform the something far greater segment is only about a inch and a half to two inches of water, only enough to go up to someones sides when they lay down.

    Also, who does OSHA think they are? Let's focus on something like Rodeo's which kills 10 or 20 people each year... This was the first incident of it's nature in 45 years at SeaWorld. It just baffles me that OSHA thinks they can come in and pull this stuff now.

  • Well there's a lot of awareness right now of aquatic animal rights. It's been getting a lot more coverage over the last few years and so there's a greater lens on how they're treated and how humans interact with them.

  • @DAISHI said: Well there's a lot of awareness right now of aquatic animal rights. It's been getting a lot more coverage over the last few years and so there's a greater lens on how they're treated and how humans interact with them.

    For some reason, this made me think first of octopuses. An animal that requires a padlock to keep it in an aquarium is obviously smart enough that we should be trying to communicate. Mainly, so that we don't get overrun by tentacled invaders in the future.

  • This thread made me cry. :(

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