Death at SeaWorld

Death at SeaWorld: Shamu and the Dark Side of Killer Whales in Captivity by David Kirby

QL 737 .C432 K577 2012

“Killer whales are among the most intelligent, social, and ecologically complex animals on earth. Is keeping them in captivity for entertainment purposes justifiable? In Death at SeaWorld, award-winning investigative journalist David Kirby explores this question with a shocking dramatic narrative that goes behind the carefully managed facade of SeaWorld theme parks to tell the story of these remarkable creatures through the eyes of the scientists who study them in the wild and the people who have risked their lives to train them in captivity.

In February 2010, Dawn Brancheau, a beloved and experienced trainer at SeaWorld Orlando, was brutally killed before horrified spectators by the 12,000-pound Icelandic male orca Tilikum. As “Shamu” – a stage name for killer whales across SeaEorld’s properties – this particular whale had entertained millions of people with astounding jumps, breaches, and other stunts learned through intensive training. But few visitors to SeaWorld knew that Tilikum already had been involved in the deaths of two people, or that several other orcas had committed serious acts of aggression against their trainers over the years.

Based on these incidents, Death at SeaWorld broadens into a scientific thriller about these mesmerizing animals. Naomi Rose, a marine mammal biologist at the Humane Society of the United States, resolves to challenge SeaWorld’s practice of capturing, breeding, and training killer whales to perform. Her twenty-year quest propels her into the center of an international controversy, where public sentiment, science, business, and governmental concerns clash over the use of killer whales in entertainment. Contrasting accounts of their often mysterious lives at sea, where orcas live in communities of close-knit matriarchal family lines, with the misery of their capture and forced associations within the restricted confines of tanks at SeaWorld and other marine parks, David Kirby demonstrates how the stress of captivity on such large, free-ranging animals can make them sick, unstable, aggressive – and deadly to humans.

Featuring exclusive interviews with former trainers at SeaWorld, as well as reports that document the range of orca-related deaths, injuries, and incidents behind SeaWorld’s cheerful image, Death at SeaWorld is a revealing look at the true costs of holding the ocean’s top predator in captivity.” – publisher description

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