Earth Island Institute

Time for a Federal Investigation into SeaWorld’s Negligence in Death of Trainer

It was with great sadness that we learned of the death of Dawn Brancheau, who by all accounts was a loving and talented caretaker for Tilikum (Tilly), the killer whale who took her life at SeaWorld Orlando just days ago.

Along with sadness of this tragic event we can’t help feeling anger toward those who insist upon exhibiting these wild creatures in habitats that can drive them to violence. Dependent on sonar/sound to navigate their vast ocean homes, dolphins and whales are in constant state of distress living in cramped pools, bombarded by noise, stressed by food deprivation and forced to perform.

We understand the love these trainers must feel for the orcas they train, but make no mistake – this wasn’t just a terrible accident, it was a calculated risk on the part of a billion dollar captive dolphin and whale industry. Facts suggest that SeaWorld was well aware of Tilicum’s deadly attacks on trainers.

Sign on the petition (thepetitionsite.com/5/stop–dolphin–captivity).

SeaWorld allowed public and trainer contact with an orca that was a known risk, and after 3 deaths they’re suggesting that it actually continue. SeaWorld has been admonished in the past by an official with the US National Marine Fisheries Service for failure to take prudent and precautionary steps with Tilicum’s health and welfare.

The latest claims that Tilicum was distracted by the trainer’s ponytail are absurd and force us to infer that SeaWorld is guilty of negligence and that it is now trying to cover up repeated deadly orca attacks by resorting to outrageous and disingenuous claims.

We believe this situation warrants the immediate initiation of a federal investigation into SeaWorld’s possible negligence and violations of the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Further information suggests that SeaWorld has covered up additional acts of orca attacks in order to protect its multi–million dollar investment in these creatures and the millions more they make on the backs of their performances.

Finally, we find their claims about conservation and education shallow. If these shows are meant to encourage people to help save these precious creatures then why aren’t they doing more to end the brutal slaughter of thousands and thousands of dolphins and whales off the coast of Japan, Norway and the Southern Seas. Instead, they turn a blind eye, when they could dedicate significant resources to stopping it.

Overall, we believe the conduct of SeaWorld in this matter is reprehensible. SeaWorld’s actions are a gross threat to dolphins, whales, and people and should not be allowed to stand.

These animals belong in the wild.

Sign on the petition (thepetitionsite.com/5/stop–dolphin–captivity).


David Phillips and the Earth Island Institute support efforts to stop the dolphin slaughter and capture in Japan as well as to educate the public about these magnificent mammals. In the past they led the effort to rescue, rehab and release the killer whale Keiko, made famous in the movie “Free Willy.” Keiko went from languishing in small pool in Mexico City to swimming with wild whales in his native waters in Iceland. He ended up swimming to Norway and living there in a bay with some human care until he died.

After many years training dolphins (including, “Hugo” the very first killer whale in captivity in the Eastern USA), Ric O’Barry came to understand the cruelty that these mammals endure for our entertainment. After the loss of the dolphin “Cathy”, one of the famous Flipper dolphins, O’Barry became an advocate of marine wildlife, working to ensure the safety of all dolphins including killer whales. The Oscar nominated documentary The Cove shows, through O’Barry’s eyes, the capture of these graceful creatures under terrible conditions, as well as the wholesale slaughter of dolphins in Japan.

Earth Island Institute works to conserve, protect and restore the Earth’s biological and cultural diversity.

The International Marine Mammal Project works to protect whales, dolphins, and their ocean habitats. Earth Island manages the Save Japan Dolphins Campaign.

International Marine Mammal Project
is a project of Earth Island Institute.
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