shamu trainer

You can tell that the majority of procaps really are a selfish as we thought when their response to the end of captive breeding is “Being a Shamu trainer was my dream! Why SeaWorld???” And “Now future generations don’t get to see them up close at SeaWorld!”

And then there are those that act like it’s such a travesty that eventually there will be an orca alone like they haven’t ignored Kiska and Kshamenk and Lolita for years.

And then you have the ones that are arguing for how important breeding and raising calves is to their lives. It’s “unnatural” to not let them. Because an unnatural environment, unnatural health issues, unnatural breeding, unnatural behaviors and more is o.k.

It’s about you - it always has been and it always will be.

Marine parks such as SeaWorld tout their ability to provide environments adequate to keep orcas alive. However, annual mortality of SeaWorld’s captive orcas remains approximately three times higher than that of wild killer whale populations, and to date approximately 155 orcas have died in captivity. Orcas are carnivores, not scavengers. In the wild they consume a diet of live (not dead) prey items depending on which cultural sub set they come from. Wild killer whales can swim one hundred miles daily as they socialise, forage, communicate and breed. Contrastingly, with little horizontal or vertical space in their enclosures, captive orcas swim only limited distances, with most spending many hours surface resting.

Dr. Jeffrey Ventre & Dr. John Jett, Former Trainers – SeaWorld, Florida


“Jeffrey Ventre (Former Seaworld Orca Trainer) was not all that reassured by the safety procedures that SeaWorld had developed for Shamu Stadium over time. A brand-new tank had recently been completed—the large, rectangular G Pool deep in the backstage area—where special events, VIP performances, and the new “Dine with Shamu” events were staged. During the “Dine” show, guests paid extra to eat an all-American buffet lunch or dinner at tables set up along the pool’s edge as one of the killer whales swam around quietly. After the meal, they were treated to a low-key, twenty-minute demonstration, without all the leaping, splashing, and hotdogging found at A Pool.
When G Pool opened, Shamu trainers were handed photocopies of two-page, handwritten notes on safety procedures in the new tank. It spelled out what should happen if one of the killer whales became aggressive. It didn’t reassure Jeff that the trainer would get out alive. In summary, the “Emergency Action Rescue Procedures 6-Point Flow Chart” called for:

1.  Spot trainer directs Education staff to sound trainer alarm and call 911. As soon as possible, a Senior Trainer or Supervisor will direct all rescue personnel.
2.  Spot trainer attempts quick control response with whale(s) from behind rocks, with emergency food.
3.  Arriving trainers: Bring additional food for control trainer and A) Shepherd’s hook to poolside, B) Life ring/ pony bottle [small oxygen tank] to poolside, C) E/F gate operation & control trainer spotter also brings water rescue equipment.
4.  With whale(s) controlled at stage, extricate victim from water using a shepherd’s hook. If victim is unreachable, move whale(s) to E/F Pool. Once whales are separated & gated securely, trainers implement water rescue procedures.

Are they kidding? Jeff said to himself when he read that. Out of six points, they were going to wait until point 4 before extricating the trainer? The trainer was probably dead by point 3, he mused darkly. Still, the victim wasn’t necessarily out of the water yet.

5.  If whale(s) refuse quick control response and/or separation to E/F pool: 1) Spot trainer continues control attempt; 2) Assisting trainers shift or maintain poolside positions with shepherd’s hook and life ring for optimal rescue opportunity.

Optimal rescue opportunity? This was beginning to sound like a Monty Python sketch, theater-of-the-absurd, gruesome-death edition. Finally, point 6 listed all of the things that should have got under way at the same time as point 1, begging the question, why was it listed last?

6.  Activities occurring during rescue procedures:

1.  1–2 extra trainers suit up with full scuba and be prepared to enter water as soon as whale(s) are gated away.
2.  One extra trainer to stay with whales once they are gated away.
3.  Education staff communicates information to the public.
4.  Operations staff control public for safety.

5.  Paramedic and security arrive for assistance.”

Excerpt from “Death at Seaworld” By David Kirby