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SeaWorld Trainer Death Theory Debunked as a Ponytail Tale

April 20, 2011
Despite SeaWorld's claims of Dawn’s ponytail “floating” into Tilikum’s mouth, this still from the Connell family video would indicate that her hair remained high and dry just seconds before the take-down.

Despite SeaWorld’s claims of Dawn’s ponytail “floating” into Tilikum’s mouth, this still from the Connell family video would indicate that her hair remained high and dry just seconds before the take-down.

The media has it all wrong. But they have it exactly as SeaWorld wants the world to Believe. A little more than two weeks ago, Tilikum’s return to performing at the Orlando theme park rehashed the events that led to death of killer whale trainer Dawn Brancheau some 13 months prior. Through their recounting of that tragic day, virtually every news outlet, press release, and article written about her death portrayed the attack and initial take-down of Dawn as a “ponytail grab” and subsequent drowning.

They couldn’t be more wrong. The preponderance of evidence indicates that Dawn was not pulled in by her ponytail but instead was dragged into the water by her arm. As we know from the brutal details of her death this was much more than a simple drowning. But why does it matter that the media continues to roll with SeaWorld’s “ponytail theory”? And why does SeaWorld want to portray this as the start of the events that led to her death?

First we’ll have to take a look at what SeaWorld (SW) initially wanted the public to believe. Hoping to quickly put the story to rest (as well as the facts), SW convinced the Orange County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO) to report that a trainer had “slipped or fell” into the pool and died of drowning. Although witnesses did not indicate that she slipped or fell, OCSO Spokesman Jim Solomons emerged from a meeting with SW officials and made that proclamation before a global audience in the initial press conference below:

With this, the fabrications and deceptions began. Not only did OCSO make a major faux pas by making this announcement (which was subsequently withdrawn as the public came forward) but SeaWorld President Dan Brown also started the web of deceit. He expressed “we have never, in the history of our parks had an incident like this”. While partially true, he failed to mention that just eight weeks earlier Keto, a SeaWorld orca on loan to Loro Parque brutally killed trainer Alexis Martinez in a similar fashion. His death in the Canary Islands was also portrayed merely as an accidental drowning.

Due to the outpouring of witness statements in the media, it was clear the “Slip or Fell” scenario wasn’t going to fly. So a new theory was born. The Ponytail Theory. Why is the Ponytail Theory important to SW? As we discussed in our exclusive interview last month with former SeaWorld trainer Samantha Berg, M.Ac., L.Ac., Dipl.Ac., the answers are quite clear. (Click HERE to read the full text of the interview).

Briefly, there are several reasons why making this distinction is important to SW:

Aside from the appearance that a ponytail grab is less intentional, it also gives SW an action they can take to remedy the situation: No female trainers are allowed to wear their hair down – hair must be kept in a bun or cut short. This gives the appearance they’re effectively addressing the problem and mitigating the dangers of working with Tilikum and all other orcas. During the latest onslaught of media coverage many were quick to point out the neat, tidy hair buns that now adorn the female trainers. This along with all of their other proposed safety improvements are a false solution.

More importantly, the ponytail theory allows SeaWorld to blame Dawn for being careless and letting her hair drift into his mouth. This is something SW has done repeatedly in the press. They will undoubtedly continue to speak out of both sides of their mouths. They will carry on blaming Dawn despite their tributes holding her up as being “the best of the best”, naming educational centers in her honor, hosting charity benefits and funding a foundation in her memory. Yes, Dawn’s life deserves to be celebrated and her family and friends do not deserve continual anguish. But the company behind these tributes is the same company deceiving the public and dishonoring Dawn by citing her actions as the sole cause that led to her death. Chuck Tompkins, head of animal training at SeaWorld has led the charge promoting the ponytail theory which squarely places blame on Dawn. In the interview below, he explains his version of what occurred, which is inconsistent with eyewitness accounts:

Click on image above to watch Chuck Tompkins CNN Interview (opens in new window)

His deceptive statements continued to push further from the truth. Despite his claims that Dawn’s session with Tilikum was absolutely perfect, a second-by-second analysis of her Dine with Shamu performance shows it was far from ideal (Click HERE to read that analysis).

You’ll also note that he cited all the other whales were normal on that date. This is another claim that has been refuted by eyewitnesses and proven by several videos including the one below. The Believe Show just prior to Dawn’s death was cancelled abruptly as the killer whales became aggressive, uncooperative and unresponsive to trainer commands. You’ll note in the video below that the trainers quickly leave the stage to call the orcas into the back pool after things go awry. (Which was also captured on video by another visitor HERE).

And the blame game has not stopped with current SW staff. Former employees have also come forth to ensure SW can continue to profit by placing the blame on Dawn’s shoulders. Thad Lacinak, former Vice President and Corporate Curator for Animal Training at SeaWorld even went as far as stating that “If Dawn was here today she would say that it was a mistake on her part”. Apparently, not only can Thad “walk and talk with the animals” but he’s taken his Dr Doolittle talent to a new height by speaking for the dead. Watch the 10-minute uncut raw interview with Thad and WFTV News Orlando (opens in new window):

Click on the image above to watch Thad Lacinak WFTV interview (opens in new window)

Click on the image above to watch Thad Lacinak WFTV interview (opens in new window)

The SW double-talk continues. In the interview, Thad also claims that killer whales are very intelligent animals and would know the difference between a human and other objects yet he’d still like everyone to believe that somehow Tilikum was confused or just playing with the ponytail.

SeaWorld has also maintained that trainers were not allowed in the water with Tilikum, but would only perform “dry-work” with the 12,000 lb orca. Knee-deep water is hardly dry-work for an experienced trainer who supposedly knew the history of Tilikum’s involvement in two prior human deaths. In their own PR literature, SW is fully aware that some killer whales specialize in retrieving their prey from platforms. Yet, it was commonplace for Dawn and other trainers to have close interaction.

Dawn was the “face” of SeaWorld – one of their most experienced and profitable trainer/entertainers, but was she fully aware of the risks involved with working with Tilikum and were the dangers continually reinforced? It seems that SW has a culture of providing little information or misinformation to its employees when it comes to past trainer/orca incidents. Carol Ray began working for SeaWorld’s animal training department in December of 1987, just one month after trainer John Sillick was crushed at SeaWorld San Diego:

“This occurred when I was working as a tour guide. The information we were given in that department was that it was a “trainer mistake”. Naturally when I started working in the animal training department I expected more information, and asked. I was surprised to get the same response “trainer error, simple as that”…and nothing more.” ~ former SeaWorld trainer Carol Ray, MA CCP-SLP

It is also possible that new VIP shows and interaction sessions with Tilikum (some of which were reportedly scheduled to begin on that day) played a role in Dawn’s death. Could there have been some deliberate complacency on the part of SW?

“It seems the limits were being pushed in order to provide the best experience possible for their supporters. There’s always pressure anytime there are VIP’s present. There is always pressure to put on a show. And since the Shamu show was cancelled preceding the incident, it makes sense that there would be some compensation in the duration of the Dine with Shamu presentation. And it’s true that the session was suboptimal at best. And it is true that the session dragged on and on and on with very little reinforcement. It’s easy to see how Tilikum may have become frustrated.” ~ former SeaWorld Trainer John Jett, Ph.D.

So where did the Ponytail Theory originate?

It all starts with Jan (Jay) Topoleski’s questionable observations that he saw Dawn’s hair floating on the water into Tilikum’s mouth. Jan was working as the safety spotter for Dawn during her Dine with Shamu performance. However, witness reports of the initial takedown raise a question of whether Jan was watching closely and if he even saw what he reported. (Read more about it in our exclusive interview with former SW trainer Samantha Berg HERE). So there is reason to wonder how clearly Jan saw the grab, if at all. But this was enough for SW to run with the Ponytail Theory. It was the perfect out for them; young, beautiful, experienced trainer growing her hair long to donate to a children’s charity, makes a mistake and allows Tilikum to become “confused” as her hair becomes entangled in his mouth.

But even Jan doesn’t seem too sure of what he saw. During his interview with OCSO investigators he stated that Tilikum had her hair and maybe her arm as well:Click on image to read a portion of Jan Topoleski's report to OCSO (PDF)He also goes on to tell investigators that Tilikum does not have any toys that are similar to hair which would cause Tilikum to mistake Dawn’s hair for a toy:

Click on image to read a portion of Jan Topoleski’s report to OCSO (PDF)

So why or how would Tilikum become confused and take her hair in a “playful” manner and refuse to let her go? Remember “expert” Thad Lacinak stated that killer whales are very intelligent and would know the difference. The answer is simple. Dawn’s hair played no role in the initial attack and it was only only later that her hair was involved during the 30+ minutes that he kept possession of her.

Of all the witnesses who provided statements to the OCSO, the evidence shows that Dawn was not pulled in by her ponytail but rather was taken down by the arm as the two drifted across the platform in knee-deep water. Dawn remained calm, a neutral response to Tilikum grasping her arm before pulling her in. The following slow-motion video (courtesy of our friend Wendy Cooke) depicts the seconds before Tilikum took Dawn into the water. It is an excerpt from the video shot by the Connell family of New Hampshire. You’ll see that Dawn’s hair remains high and dry as the two are moving to the left in tandem with Dawn’s arm in Tilikum’s mouth.

Other than Jan Topoleski’s conflicting statements about the ponytail grab, numerous other witnesses saw something completely different. To better understand what and when witnesses saw Tilikum grasping Dawn’s hair the following graphic displays the pool layout of Shamu Stadium at SW Orlando. The Dine with Shamu pool where the initial interaction and attack occurred is “G” pool. After more than 30 minutes of trying to retrieve Dawn’s body and moving Tilikum, Dawn and the other orcas between the pools, Dawn’s hair, scalp and whistle were retrieved from “F” pool. It is in “F” pool where many witnesses observed Tilikum grasping Dawn by the hair. Her body was finally retrieved in “D” pool.

“A” main show pool (Believe)- “B” & “C” training pools- “D” med pool w/ false bottom (Dawn’s body retrieved)- “E” w/ covered awning- “F” scalp, hair, whistle recovered- “G” Dine with Shamu pool, underwater viewing areas, point of initial attack

The most telling evidence of an initial arm-grab is that of SeaWorld Security Officer Fredy Herrera, who witnessed the initial take down:

Click on image to read Fredy Herrera’s entire hand-written report (PDF)

Listen to Fredy Herrera’s audio interview with Orange County Sheriff’s Office HERE.  And his is not the only statement to correlate that Dawn was not pulled into the water by her ponytail. Susanne DeWit a visitor from the Netherlands- “Suddenly I saw Shamu grabbing the trainer by the shoulder and pulling her down in the water near the window.”::

Click on image to read Susanne DeWit’s entire hand-written report (PDF)

Phyllis Manning- SeaWorld Photographer: “…the trainer who poses the whale yelled up to Dawn that she was ready then I saw Dawn facing towards Tilly, hanging on, her legs were dangling and her shoe fell off.” Is this at all possible if Tilikum had Dawn by the hair?:

Click on image to read Phyllis Manning’s entire hand-written report (PDF)

Katherine Gass- SeaWorld Employee: “… this was at about 3 mins in… He (Tilikum) did swim by the window (in “G” pool) and I took note that he did not have anything in his mouth or on his body at that time” She later continues: “We were in the process of pulling nets in when he went into “F” pool. That is the first time I got a good look at the trainer. He had her in his mouth by the hair.”:

Click on image to read Katherine Gass’s entire hand-written report (PDF)

And these aren’t the only witnesses to corroborate that Dawn’s hair didn’t play a role until later in the event. Crime Scene Investigator Murdock conducted a search for Dawn’s hair, scalp and whistle, which were located in “F” pool:

Click on image to read the entire OCSO Final Investigative Report (PDF

According to other witnesses, their obsevations indicate that Tilikum had her by the torso or upper arm prior to entering “F” pool where her scalp was retrieved. From the OCSO Final Investigative Report:

  • Pg 32: Chahine Kish, SeaWorld “Dine with Shamu” employee: “…did see Tilikum surface at one point (in “G” pool) and when he did, he had Dawn Brancheau in his mouth possibly by the torso.”
  • Pg 34: Jeremy Rippy, SeaWorld animal trainer: “… and the other people there began using the net (in “G” pool) to try and move Tilikum to the smaller pool (“F” pool). The net kept snagging on the rocks and Tilikum was able to get behind the net. He could see Tilikum was holding Dawn Brancheau in his mouth by the neck and shoulder.”
  • Pg 36-37: Laura Surovik, SeaWorld assistant curator of animal training: “When she arrived, Tilikum was in “G” pool and moving into “F” pool. Laura Surovik could see Tilikum was holding Dawn Brancheau in his mouth (possibly by the torso).”
  • Pg 36: Craig Thomas, SeaWorld animal trainer- “…Tilikum finally responded by entering “F” pool. Craig Thomas could see Tilikum was holding Dawn Brancheau by the hair”

So with the overwhelming evidence that Dawn was not taken down by her ponytail, how is it that SeaWorld has successfully manipulated the media to follow their lead? Simply put… good PR and even better deception. The Ponytail Theory is just that. A theory that doesn’t hold weight and has no merit.

For a complete set of investigative documents related to Dawn Brancheau’s death, including the Orange County Sheriff’s Final Investigative Report, attachments, addendums, autopsy report, OSHA investigation documents, USDA-APHIS investigation documents, etc., click HERE. All documents were obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and are viewable online or can be downloaded in PDF format.

Update: November 10, 2011- The Orca Project has obtained exclusive photos taken from the underwater viewing area during the final seconds before Tilikum pulled Dawn into the water. Read our post “New Photos of Killer Whale involved in Trainer Death at SeaWorld”

97 Comments leave one →
  1. April 9, 2014 11:40 pm

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    • Not here. permalink
      July 4, 2014 5:54 am

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  2. April 9, 2014 5:55 pm

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  3. mike mcmanus permalink
    February 23, 2014 7:55 pm

    It’s a condition of man. There are none so blind as them that “Will Not” see… These people need be sued out of existence. I would donate to P.E.T.A to help them fight this, Except, they themselves are the worst spin doctors imaginable them selves.

  4. Zee Twentyeight permalink
    January 24, 2014 5:37 am

    After looking at thad lacinek’s eyes, and knowing some things about the body language of liars, It appears to me that when he looks down Right After he says the words “her mistake in allowing that to happen”, implies that he KNEW he was telling a lie, and doing his best to put the blame on Dawn and exonerate seaworld from any fault. That is what executives do though, but how in good conscience is beyond me. It would be impossible for anyone with a good conscience to do something like that, and like the other trainer said, “How dare you, how disrespectful…” I will never patronize seaworld for that and several other reasons, ie; Capturing the Orcinus orca’s young in the wild and taking the young away from a mother while in captivity, causing profound grief to the animals. To me, that is absolutely disgusting, inhumane, and cruel. Not to mention the fact that after the first death, the second/next deaths never had to happen. That is what happens when a company like seaworld puts money first, even more that human life and the Orca’s well being also. They even keep the “next in line” trainers from knowing all of the facts! Reprehensible! I think they ought to let the animals go, at least if they can survive, and they probable can, especially if extra food could be given to them after they were introduced back into the wild. Those creatures are smart, they would allow themselves to be fed out in the ocean.
    Well, just one of many opinions. Boycott seaworld!

  5. January 18, 2014 3:54 am

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  6. Paxtruth permalink
    October 30, 2013 12:02 am

    Clearly the whales aren’t happy. It makes me sick that they would lie about this; how many people have to die before they just leave these poor animals alone.

    • July 6, 2014 6:59 pm

      “Clearly the whales aren’t happy. It makes me sick that they would lie about this; how many people have to die before they just leave these poor animals alone.”

      Do Orcas get rub downs in the wild? I agree there are people that do bad things to animals (dog fighting, roster fighting, killing puppies by leaving them on the side of the road) is very bad and should be stopped… but there are good people in this world (orca trainers included) that give the best care (food, medical care, shelter (barn, inside the house, in your bed; if a dog or cat) etc to any animal becuase its better for them to have some place to go when sub-zero temps, severe thunderstorm, tornado etc where if they where left out in the elements they would die most likely. Also it seems you all love to rant… Oh and I know about being on a farm and raising animals (as do some of my friends) to HAVE TO (emphasis add) I remember having to get up before the sun rose and take care of bucket calfs (calfs that are feed from a bucket) and then go to school, do homework, go to bed, and then repeat that day after day (with you doing the work or a sibling having to do your work, if your to lazy to get up) or help your mom look after piglets, instead of just playing video games (Iike you wanted to do) would be hard for you too probaly. Will like I said I’ve had these experiences, so unless you can say the same (or something similar) you’re just ranting…

      • Red permalink
        July 7, 2014 4:10 am

        But whales can cope just fine with life in the wild. Unlike land animals, they never have to worry about thunderstorms or tornadoes. Moreover, subzero temps seem to be rather healthy for them–after all, there are plenty of orcas off the coast of Iceland and Canada. In hot locations like Texas and Florida, by contrast, the constant exposure to sunlight appears to be detrimental to them, causing skin problems and overheating. As apex predators, they don’t really have to worry about being attacked or killed by animals bigger than they are. As for medical care, much of the medical care given at marine parks appears to be necessitated by the very nature of the marine parks themselves. For example, it has been said that if you go to the fish house at any marine park where the food and medical supplies for the cetaceans are kept, you’ll find antacids galore because so many of the whales and dolphins have stress-related stomach problems. They are fed blocks of gelatin laced with vitamins and minerals and electrolytes because the diet that they are fed at marine parks is frequently inadequate compared to that which they would eat in the wild. That’s what happens when you take an animal that’s used to crunching the bones of sea lions and restrict that animal to a diet of small dead baitfish. Orcas are more likely to develop dental problems at a marine park than they would in the wild, and since they need to stay awake in order to remember to breathe, they cannot be anesthetized in order to perform the surgery necessary to tackle these dental problems. So at places like SeaWorld, the whales’ teeth are drilled while they are still fully conscious, which must be excruciating. Do they get rub-downs in the wild? Yes, from their fellow pod-mates. Touching and nuzzling are important components of social interaction between whales. But at a marine park, the delicate balance of an orca’s social structure is not preserved.

        Your experiences on a farm may have prepared you to care for domestic animals adequately, but wild animals have entirely different needs, especially aquatic animals. The humane treatment of an orca is an entirely different ballgame compared to the humane treatment of a pig, so you can’t really compare one to the other.

        As for the videogame reference, please be aware that many of the people on this thread are actually functioning adults well over the age of 18 who have spent a lot of time studying these subjects.

      • Sophia permalink
        July 28, 2014 3:58 pm

        You cannot compare these amazingly HUGE PREDATORS to the likes of a pig or any domestic animal commonly found on a farm. I cannot vouch for Seaworld’s medical care for these animals nor can I tell you that it is lacking in quality. I will tell you this.

        The killer whales are often logging, or buoying on the water and are often doing tricks in the sunlight, which is harmful for their skin. They have dental issues, and the females are breeding and giving birth much more frequently and at a younger age than their counterparts in the wild. The killer whales do not come from the same pods and can be aggressive towards one another.

        Do I even have to spell out the fact these creatures are emotionally traumatized and damaged? When they are with each other, all strangers in the same tank, they don’t ‘become’ family.

        Kalina and Katina have had their calves taken away from them. Seaworld swears that they do, but calves do not leave the pod, ever. These calves were practically the only family they knew compared to their tank-mates. People like to believe that they do not understand, that they simply forget their children, but orcas do understand, they feel pain and hurt when they realize that they’re gone.

        These animals are able of understanding companionship between humans. They have the capability of being gentle and are extremely intelligent. Seaworld spins multiple lies to their co-workers and park visitors to keep them happy. The people who run that place do not care about these animals.

        • Sophia permalink
          July 28, 2014 3:59 pm

          I meant to include that even though they can be friendly, they are strong predators that should not be in captivity. Period. Alright, rant’s over.

  7. Mark Parrish permalink
    October 26, 2013 2:55 am

    Thank you Orca Project for your hard work, dedication and raising public awarenees regarding these majestic creatures. Pony Tail, shoulder, neck? Who cares. None of this will bring Dawn back. Companies like SW operate for one reason…money. Everything else is secondary including human and orca life.

    I only hope that people will open their eyes and stop visiting these types of parks so animals can live out their lives in their natural habitat. I for one will never set foot inside a SW again.

  8. Shamu permalink
    April 29, 2013 8:18 am

    I’m an Orca in a pool, doing pointless tricks for pointless people. Bored, bored,bored. Oh, what to do? I know…….

  9. Shannon Rae permalink
    January 8, 2013 8:29 am

    Please explain to me what this video is of? I’m very confused…clearly it is mislabelled, but is a very real attack on a trainer by a killer whale. Know any more details about this?—GRAPHIC.aspx?bcmediaid=c60391a9-55b2-4a7c-808e-64fe52e38c7e

    • Hanna Drolly permalink
      January 26, 2013 8:40 am

      Hi! I also saw this video – but it certainly is not Dawn, looks like a man, and it’s from Italy, too. Really curious as of what it is.

      I have a question to TOP regarding “reasons” for “Tilly” to “kill” Dawn: All the injuries and the fact that she drowned were due because a giant water animal moved her around just the way a whale moves things around. If he wanted to dismember her or eat her, he would have. So the injuries are not horrible because he was so violent, but just because he is an orca “playing” with a human! I can’t help thinking that he did not mean to kill her, but he wanted her to be with him: To him Dawn was that creature out of the water who made him do things all the time, and he couldn’t reach her. He must have been madly curious about that creature. So when he grabbed and dragged her into his environment, this must not have been a murderous intention, just plainly his opportunity to check out that creature at whose mercy he was day in day out. Perform, get fish, fail, get less fish or none – and there she was within his reach! Deliberately! He did not violently grab her, he just took the “offer” – after all she was close enough, and no hand gesture told him to not pull at her.
      Only because humans think trainers “love” their animals this won’t ever mean that a captured trained animal will ever think that way too! Why would they? They are not free, they are helpless in so many ways. So one day, that trainer gets within reach – if I was an orca, I would have grabbed her too. Not to kill her, just to have her in my environment when I want to, for once. But because I am huge and powerful and she is tiny, I would have hurt and even killed her – that one time that I treated her in my realm my way! And that’s all. No “evil” killer machine here.
      All those reports that Tilly was “involved in two other killings” make me so mad! The first time a woman fell into the pool and the whales played with her. That’s it. No biting, no eating, just a feeble human in a giant sea mammal’s world. Captured, youngg giant sea mammals.
      The second time a lunatic took himself into the pool, and the next morning he was still pretty much intact given the fact that he was with an orca alone all night.
      So I wish people would really really stop being so stupid when considering what Tilly “did to Dawn”. He did not kill her by bad intention. She got killed by accident because the animal whom she had bonded with and vice versa finally tried to express bonding his own way: Come into my realm, creature who is usually out of reach, and then we do it my way for once. Just a fatal way because humans and whales are not mean to live together in either/or one of their realms. Of course he was agitated once he got Dawn! He sensed her struggle, he is a predator, he got into rough playing, and then she was dead, and he knew it. Now what – what if he realized he had made a mistake? All that talk about “intelligence” of the whales, and then they are still treated as if they were idiots.
      Humans have enslaved whales. Big surprise that damage happens once a humans ends up forced into whale realm! Grab a human by a limb, swim a turn, and some damage happens just there. Not the whale fault! There he is supposed to carry humans all over the place, and once he does it his way and the human breaks he is a “killer”.
      I am so ashamed for humans.
      It is really sad what happened to Dawn – and I can’t get the idea of her possible realization out of my mind, that when she was already in the water, she understood why Tilly took her in, and she knew what was happening and that it would be her death and that afterwards Tilly would be the bad guy. That could have been a horrible last thought for her. But for sure it was one kind of closeness between her and Tilly for an instant. R.I.P., Dawn.

      • Shamu permalink
        April 29, 2013 8:26 am

        Snap out of it. He was bored and had a tantrum. He didn’t bite into her or the other guy because he’s no experience of ever having to do so. Watch the video of it bashing up the other trainer; you wouldn’t get me in that pool for all the cash in the world. But you are right in that he shouldn’t be in captivity. Set it free or shoot the thing- have some decency.

      • December 26, 2013 4:36 pm

        She had done tricks with him in the water before.

      • Ann W permalink
        December 26, 2013 5:21 pm

        I don’t quite understand when some people say he deliberately killed her and some people say he did not mean to kill her. To my thinking, even though it is a human, the whales know there is a difference between them and for instance baby orcas. They would not take a baby orca’s fluke in their mouth and swim around. They know that is harmful. Also a baby orca cannot hold its breath as long as an adult orca, so it would seem Tilikum would know that a human probably cannot hold their breath as long as an adult orca. Also from what I have read, it did bite her arm off completely. They could not retrieve it.

    • Ann W permalink
      August 16, 2013 3:13 pm

      This is Steve Aibel, SeaWorld Adventure Park in 2004.

  10. November 14, 2011 2:48 am

    Do you people know anything about orcas? First off the orca in the first photo is not even Tilikum. You can tell just by looking at the orcas melon.Tilikum’s is much shallower then the one in the picture, that one is probably one of their younger females, I can’t tell for sure exactly which one since the dorsal fin is not shown in the pictue. Also, trainers were restricted from entering the water with Tilikum due to his past problems. In this photo, Dawn is submerged in at least 4 feet of water, the incident took place on a display ramp with only about 5 inches of water. Dawn was on her stomach praising Tilikum for displaying the correct behavior when her hair drifted into the water. As for the sentence on this page that states “He also goes on to tell investigators that Tilikum does not have any toys that are similar to hair which would cause Tilikum to mistake Dawn’s hair for a toy” that was exactly the problem. Orca’s are very intelligent and inquisitive animals, when Tilikum saw the hair he decided to investigate it further in the only way he could, with his mouth. As with working with any animal, there is always a risk of something going wrong, no matter how much you know and trust the animal. Also, putting a boycott on marine parks with cetaceans, why would anyone do that. I can see the ethical situation behind it but SeaWorld has not had a wild orca in captivity since the origional Shamu, all of the orcas currently at all of the SeaWorld’s are captive bred. If you were to release them they would have a very small chance of survival. It would be like releasing a pet dog or cat that had been a house pet all of its life, I would be dead within days. The reason these animals are displayed in captivity is to educate the public so they have a better understanding of their world. SeaWorld’s orcas very well taken care of, I have worked very closly with many SeaWorld employees and I am currently working towards becoming a trainer myself. I know firsthand how the animals are treated and I can honestly tell you that all of the rumors of mistreatment are FAKE. These animals are some of the most healthy creatures I have ever had the privilage to work with. I can guarantee that someone will bring up the bent dorsal fin aspect as an example of mistreatment. Lets put that theory to rest, I have been doing extensive research on captive and wild orcas and, contrary to popular belief, wild orcas also commonly have bent dorsal fins. This trait is similar to a finger print, allowing other members of the pod identify each other. As far as I can tell from research, the only reason the dorsal fins of the SeaWold orcas are bent more is because of their numerous jumps. An orcas dorsal fin consists of mostly cartilage and muscle, similar to a homans nose. When the orca jumps and lands on its back the surface tension of the water alone may be slowly bending the dorsal fin over time, with no ill affects on the orca. It could also simply be an aspect of age, even in the wild, as orcas age their dorsal fins gradually droop. The young orcas at SeaWorld are rarely seen with any curve to their dorsal fins, it is always seen in the adults only. The combination of these two aspects is probably why the orcas at SeaWorld have droopier dorsal fins.

    I hope this post makes everyone on this site think!

    • Hayley-Lolita O'Connor permalink
      November 14, 2011 12:16 pm

      You can go on and on and on forever about the ins and outs … but for someone who loves orcas, as you must think you do .. due to having some knowledge about them. How can you or anyone like you, justify a huge and intelligent animal, a life in a tank… which let’s be honest is a glorified pool. Underneath the gorgeous blue water and the cheesy smiling people.. is four walls. That is not the ocean, it will never compare to it and that is the end of it.

      anti caps and pro caps can argue until we are blue in the face, but given the choice… THEIR choice, would the orca choose themselves to stay in a pool??? .. i think we all know the answer is no. It is unfair, morally wrong and just depressing that we think we have a right to take an animal such as this and plonk it in a place such as sea world.

      as for why Dawn was killed… i find it fascinating that people who believe he done it out of curiosity, still claim that they are intelligent. .. and you are right, they are.. they are intelligent enough to know that he was being violent and aggressive,therefore killing her. He knew what he was doing. The question we should all be asking is WHY… and it isnt because he had never felt hair before!! that is absurd. This animal, is huge. he is in a tank that is no bigger than a normal bedroom to us…it may look huge to a human being but it is FAR from the size he is designed for!! … he has been involved in two other deaths.. that is not a coincidence. He must be bored out of his mind, frustrated and stressed.

      Anyone who supports sea world.. dolphinariums…animal captivity… you DO NOT love dolphins and whales the way you think you do.

      end of.

      • November 15, 2011 12:48 am

        You do have a point, a tank will never be the ocean, but have these orcas ever known what the ocean is like, no. They were all captive bred and have never known anything but their tank. I do agree, if they were wild orcas they would choose to be free if given the chance. As for the size of the tank, I do not know the exact dimentions of the Orlando tank, but I do know the approximate dimentions of the San Diego display tank and stadium tank due to training for the swim test,( every SeaWorld worldwide that displays orcas has similar sized tanks, they were all based off of San Diego’s): 110 ft wide X 36 ft deep, I do not know the exact length but it is atleast double the width. That is for the stadium tank and the display tank is the same width and 24 ft deep, along with the training pool, medical pools, and resting pools, the entire attraction covers almost a full circular mile. I know that sounds small but take into consideration, some wild orcas in Hawaii and New Zealand occupy a home range of only a half mile and the orcas are generally free to move about different tanks (except the stadium tank) between shows. I also forgot to leave one thing out of my earlier post. Many people say that SeaWorld’s orcas preform to be feed. That is a lie. The orcas are fed 3/4 of their daily food and vitamins before the park opens. The rest of the food does come from their preformance and daily training and interaction sessions. If they choose not to preform then they get what is left of their daily fish amounts after park hours. Building on that, they also get other stimuli other than food such as ice cubes, rub downs and kisses. I think you were also implying that people who state that curiosity is what caused Tilikum to “attack” are also stating that he has a lack of intelligence. Think about this for a while. I am going to use humans as an example but the same idea works for orcas. If curiosity means lack of intelligence then we would still be living in caves eating raw meat. Humans are considered to be the most intelligent animals based on brain to cranium proportions. Though we are intelligent we would have never made any advances in technology without curiosity and trying new things, sometimes with dire consequences. As you probably well know, all animals are quite intelligent and are capable of somewhat easily solving complex tasks. To simulate how this works in other animals, lets try an experiment. If you have a pet at home introduce a new object into their environment, for example: most animals have never encountered an egg (such as Tilikum and Dawn’s hair floating in the water), simply place an egg (preferably a boiled egg) on the ground in front of them and observe what they do from a distance for an extended amount of time. I think you will be very surprised as to what happens. You also stated that Tilikum would know whether he was being aggressive or not and that is true, except he was obviously not being aggressive. I reviewed the footage multipal times to pick out any behavioral oddities during the “attack”. It is very obvious that he was playing, at the beginning, near the end he was starting to get a little aggressive but it was probably due to the stress of the crowd screaming and the other trainers using unfamilar techniques to distract him. I apprecate what you had to to say but next time try to do some further research other than this site, specifically this article. I decided to research SeaWorld Orlando’s current and past employees and about half of the people claiming to be SeaWorld team members in this article are not SeaWorld employees and have never been. Don’t believe everything you read on the internet, it is obvious that specifically this article and many others on this site are made up stories to trick people. Do some actual research and you will see exactly what I mean.

        • Hayley O'Connor permalink
          November 15, 2011 10:20 am

          First of all…. You are telling me to do research, yet you are are the one that doesnt seem to know that half of the orcas there were captured, the main one in TILIKUM and he was cruely captured.

          An Orca doesnt need to of “seen” the ocean to know through its instincts that is not supposed to live in a chlorinated SWIMMING POOL. They are not put on this earth to jump out for a dead fish. They are to live in family pods, dive to depths that no pool can sustain, hunt live seals, plan and plot how ti make a kill. Interact with whales they CHOSE to see, not ones that are made to be in the same POOL!

          The pools NOMATTER how large, would take a wild orca less than 20 seconds to swim across in the wild. It is unfair. How would you like it, if you or your child was grabbed from the street and out in a room for animals to view???

          i do not need to do research to know that seaworld and captivity are wrong….. neither do you. You need to ask yourself some home truths about your morals and your “love” for Orcas! because they would not love you back if they knew you were supporting them being kept in a tank/pool!!!

          Im not going to reply after this, as I KNOW what is right and what is WRONG. and do y ou know what….i couldn’t care less is he was just playing when he killed Dawn, he shouldnt be there!!!

          END OF

        • Sally permalink
          January 15, 2012 10:54 pm

          Regardless of whatever the facts are that whale along all the other captive animals should NEVER have been living in a tank in a place like Seaworld, these animals belong in the wild NOT a tank!!

          Dawn’s death would never have happened if Tilikum or any other killer whale for that matter wasn’t stolen and yes I say stolen from the wild in the first place!

    • Jordan permalink
      November 15, 2011 7:34 am

      “SeaWorld has not had a wild orca in captivity since the origional Shamu, all of the orcas currently at all of the SeaWorld’s are captive bred”

      > Corky II, caught in 1969, still alive, SWC
      > Kasatka, caught in 1978, still alive, SWC
      > Katina, caught in 1978, still alive, SWF
      > Ulysses/Ulises, caught in 1980, still alive, SWC
      > Tilikum, caught in 1983, still alive, SWF

      I’m sorry, what were you saying about SeaWorld having 100% captive-bred orcas again?

    • Red permalink
      July 31, 2013 11:07 pm

      Okay. Then why don’t humans’ noses droop with age? Because, unlike a dorsal fin, your nose is not an important part of your musculoskeletal system and does not affect your ability to balance. Moreover, I would think that orcas recognize each other by distinctive coloration patterns.

    • jbm permalink
      December 21, 2013 6:33 am

      What an absolute load of bollocks – and you know that. How can you lie so much, how can you kid yourself that they are happy in such small concrete tanks, or do you occasionally take them out in the ocean so that can swim properly – covering the 100 miles they do in the wild ? you poor poor deluded creature. I feel sorry for you. Lets pop you in a cage and observe how happy you will be with no ill effects at all. I am sure you wont be miserable or miss your family or become quiet and withdrawn, or feel angry and upset. Sure you’ll have a great time. You total pillock.

  11. Hayley O'Connor permalink
    August 27, 2011 11:40 am


    we can argue for ever about all of this… but the sad truth is, if the whales got a choice they would never of chosen to be put into a tank no matter how big or small. Family is everything to them and being separated and taken from their family is the worst for these animals. they wouldn’t choose to be there, they have no choice.

  12. Hayley O'Connor permalink
    August 27, 2011 11:37 am

    NP!! firstly i don’t believe that for a second BUT even if he did pull her in by her pony tail… he didn’t do it by accident or because of her hair floating in his mouth. he was fully aware of what he is doing! these animals are far more intelligent than pushing people around a pool and jumping out on Que…

    you pro seaworld people are a nightmare. and the reason i know the truth, is i used to be just like YOU. i went to all the swim with dolphin programmes, my dream was to be a trainer. i couldn’t stand activists and i loved all marine parks…. until one day my own mum said to me, before i stand up for these places.. RESEARCH. and so i did. and ive never looked back. CRUEL! and thats that.

  13. August 27, 2011 2:07 am

    This article is a joke! You realize there is footage via a security camera which has been reviewed extensively, right? And guess what; it shows Tili pulling her in via her ponytail. This audience video could have been taken several minutes before he grabed her. It literally proves nothing. Seaworld had the security video sealed in court so it will never see the light of day. Everyone who has seen the security camera footage has agreed it WAS her ponytail he grabbed.

    • Jordan permalink
      November 15, 2011 7:27 am

      Really now, have you’ve seen this security cam footage? Because just as you said, such footage has been sealed from the public. Do you have screen shots of the security cam to back up the ponytail grab?

    • December 21, 2013 8:53 am

      I hope a dog grabs you by the arm… And you live to know that the entire world is saying the dog grabbed you by the hair, telling you they have footage and everyone “agreed”

    • jj walker permalink
      July 4, 2015 9:17 pm

      “Seaworld had the security video sealed in court so it will never see the light of day.”
      That you can’t comprehend the issue there-in explains everything

  14. August 14, 2011 4:31 pm

    TOP, great idea to re-post this informative story, and congrats for such success on the web and also at Facebook. This is one of the best pieces written on this tragedy at the SeaCircus, and relevant as the OSHA hearing approach, beginning September 19, 2011. Here is an informative video on dorsal fin collapse:

  15. Hayley O'Connor permalink
    August 14, 2011 4:01 pm

    I wish everybody would have an open mind for five minutes and read this report, all the sea world fans refuse to listen, they get aggressive and nasty when you try and explain what happened, but its here in black and white,

    it was NOT an accident, he chose to do this, and he done it by her arm. he knew what he was doing, we will never truly know why, but I’m sure being held in captivity doing the same things day in and day out defiantly was one of the reasons he done this.

    i truly hope one day, sea world are exposed to the world for their lies, corruption and cruelty to make money! without being able to brush it off… maybe someone needs to get a job as a trainer, stick at it for a while and secretly film what goes on..for a popular and global tv programme..could this ever be done???

    I wish the orca project all the luck and i will be with you all the way.

  16. Linda Harris permalink
    August 14, 2011 3:46 pm

    It is so horribly loud and such a stressful environment, holding back food to make them obey is gross… I am sure the water is gross and the confinement is depressing fro them. Seeing these beautiful animals in the wild is how it should be, and even then continue with strict restrictions as to how close the boats get, and turning off the engines.

  17. ovie permalink
    August 8, 2011 1:46 pm

    how about build a killer whale show in maryland

  18. kelly permalink
    May 30, 2011 11:10 am

    well done….there has been so much junk out there of assumptions on this incident and I chalked it up to bad journalism. Well done TOP you did the research correctly, you wrote it in a straight up manner and did well on keeping the emotions in check. thank you guys!

  19. Kim permalink
    May 3, 2011 12:55 pm

    Thanks for that information. I had know idea so much was going on to make tillie and the other whales so upset. I watched one ocean on youtube out of cureocity, and there was know educational value in it whatsoever. It was quite dull actually. How the trainers enjoy doing the same thing day after day is what I can’t understand. I don’t blame the whales for rebeling at all.

  20. Kim permalink
    May 1, 2011 12:21 pm

    Dear top
    Is there any evidence to suggest why Tillie attacked Dawn? Because orcas are so inteligent, I would think he wouldn’t pull her in just because. Is he still performing in the shows?

    • May 2, 2011 8:12 pm

      Hi Kim,
      There were a number of issues occurring on the day of Dawn’s death. As detailed in this story (with links provided) there appeared to be some social strife amongst the orcas on that day as witnessed in the earlier “Believe” show which led to its cancellation. And although portrayed by SeaWorld as a flawless session, the Dine with Shamu event was far from perfect before Dawn was pulled into the water by her arm (see links in the story above).
      V.I.P. sessions last year and construction activities occuring in the adjacent pools may have also played a role in the death and recovery efforts in February 2010. These same activities may be why Tilikum has refused to perform in the new “One Ocean” show. Just as last year when Dawn was killed, there is major construction ongoing in Shamu Stadium which undoubtedly has an effect on the orcas already stressful, confined spaces.
      On Saturday, April 30 during our last visit, Tilikum performed in the 7:30 p.m. “One Ocean” show, but his performance was lackluster and he only appeared for approximately 2 minutes.

  21. RachelAFan permalink
    April 28, 2011 11:42 am

    Hey TOP– I didn’t realize you had filmed the video. . .you guys are really on top of things! Out of curiosity, how did the trainers react when he stopped performing? It’s hard to see in the video but I found it strange that they allowed him to swim around the pool for so long, when they have quickly ushered misbehaving whales out of the pool on other occasions. Were they trying to act as if nothing was wrong and hope he would come back under their control? Or were they trying to control him and he was defying them?

    • April 28, 2011 5:16 pm

      Thanks RachelAFan- You’ll notice in the video that you posted, the trainers down at the edge of the pool are trying to get Tilikum’s attention when he swims by. He ignored them. Since it was near the conclusion of the show, I believe they just let him continue to swim in circles until the music stopped… probably hoping he would do at least one more breach or splash which he never did. The show ended just as the video stopped and Tilikum continued to just swim in circles as Shamu Stadium emptied out. After a few minutes they called him out to the back pools, and ended up feeding him in the medical pool (“D” pool). In the short video clip below you can see them tossing handfuls of fish into his mouth. Poor guy was hungry! As you know, they withhold food in order to get them to perform… sometimes holding them at “half-base” for the important VIP sessions. This means they would only give them half their normal intake of food, whichis supposed to make them “perform” better… similar to what happened the day Dawn was killed. I apologize for the video (might be hard to see at this size unless you view in full-screen) but if you watch in full-size, you can see the trainers dumping fish into Tilikums mouth as he extends out of the med pool:

      • Georgie permalink
        April 30, 2011 11:43 am

        Hi OP
        I was just wondering if you could take a look at the below incident for me at Sea World.
        When the trainers on land see the orca snatch the trainer in the pool…they immediately run for this yellow instrument…do you have any idea what it is? They seem to abandon the idea to use once they feel they have control. Is it some reprimanding device? maybe emits a high frequency noise to alert, or confuse the whale…I genuinely have no idea. But just intrigued as to why they choose not to use it after all…like it’s a last resort only.
        Maybe you could ask one of the former trainers? Thanks for all your help.
        Georgie x

        • May 2, 2011 7:46 pm

          Thanks Georgie x- You are absolutely correct. The “yellow box” emits signals which directs the activities of the orcas. It appears in this video that once the trainers have the attention of the orcas (using hand-slaps on the water) they discard the box.
          It shows that regardless of what SeaWorld wants the public to believe, they are never in total control of the orcas. The killer whales are highly intelligent and make their own decisions, including when/if they want to take a trainer down.
          Thanks for sharing!

  22. RachelAFan permalink
    April 27, 2011 7:07 pm

    Hey, TOP, I was wondering if you were planning on writing up a post on Sea World’s new “One Ocean” and, more importantly, Tilikum’s recent refusal to perform in it.

    • April 27, 2011 8:03 pm

      Hi RachelAFan-
      Thanks for posting this video which was shot by The Orca Project on our first visit to the “One Ocean” show on April 23rd. It was Tilikum’s 2nd day of performing the new killer whale show which premiered the day prior at Shamu Stadium. We have not yet completed a review of the new show and Tilly’s reluctance to perform for publication here on The Orca Project website… but stay tuned 🙂

      We did post the video on our Facebook page which can be found here:

      Here’s our description of The Orca Project’s YouTube video from that performance:
      “Visitors begin walking out of Shamu Stadium during the new One Ocean killer whale show as Tilikum, the 12,000 lb orca that killed trainer Dawn Brancheau refuses to perform. After splashing the crowd a couple of times, he appears to have lost interest and just swims around the pool for several minutes. After what was already a rather lame show, the guests had seen just about enough and begin filing out annoyed with the music and lack of “entertainment”. Other than numerous water jets that squirt into the air and into the pool, the new “One Ocean” show is even more pathetic than its’ predecessor the “Believe” show.”

  23. Kim permalink
    April 23, 2011 7:30 pm

    This makes me so mad. When I was younger, I visited sea world, but now I know the truth. I got in to a debate with this person who said I should do my research, that none of the orcas had been captured for entertainment. Oh I’ve done my research, and know a lot more then she clearly doesn’t want to know. These animals should of never been caught in the first place, and for those that are in captivity, should be retired, even the captive born ones. They should at least get a chance to see what the ocean’s like. I’m so glad I stumbled acrossed this website, because thanks to you and orcanetwork, I know the truth about these horable places and will never visit one again. I wish all the orcas would rebel and refuse to preform. If that happened, sea world sure would look bad in the general public’s eyes, then maybe they’d be shut down.

  24. April 22, 2011 8:06 pm

    Sea World and their pathetic lies. How low can they go. Is it still possible? To blame Dawn and her ponytail for this brutal incident is beneath contempt.

  25. Dean-O permalink
    April 21, 2011 1:53 am

    Watching these videos truly hurts my heart. I’m not a perfect person, but people like Chuck Tompkins and Thad Lacinek make me sick. I really don’t know how they can live with their lies and BS. So SAD!!!

  26. Diane McNally permalink
    April 21, 2011 12:10 am

    Thank you to TOP for putting in the endless hours to get this information out where Sea World doesn’t want it. For those reading comments, pass it on to local journalists, and radio stations. TOP is the go to source for anything related to to Sea World and the September OSHA hearings.

  27. blown away permalink
    April 20, 2011 6:34 pm

    wow. thanks for shedding light on these issues and for setting the record straight. i will now cringe if i hear a news agency or reporter say that she was “pulled in by her pony tail”, just as i do when i hear them say she “drowned” (as if!).
    that thad guy is off his rocker. drives me nuts to hear him discredit retirement opportunities for these whales and the efforts to release Keiko (who had a name, dude, and it was not “Free Willy”; and who would have died a lot sooner in the pithole he was living in in captivity). Hmmm. come to think of it, if Keiko were here today he would say thank you for letting me out of that prison and for letting me die where I was meant to be. i’m no expert, though. just someone with common sense.

  28. Georgie permalink
    April 20, 2011 3:00 pm

    Hi Orca Project

    Once again you have left me in awe of your investigative journalism skills, even more so that you have dedicated your talent to this incredibly worthy cause.
    If only this would get published in the papers, the news and other websites…people need to know the truth. This is far beyond animal cruelty now, it is the deliberate cover up of a death…how are they still getting away with this, so they can continue to keep feeding the masses their lies and enable profits from knowingly endangering their employees lives. Does anyone else not worry about this? How they have spun the lies to a point where they are almost sympathised with….Dawn’s family will never get the assurance that their loved one’s death has not been in vein, that it has highlighted risks that need to be adressed to avoid such tragedies in the future. Money talks, a very powerful company who still have people paying good money for a circus in this day and age…and passing it off as eductaion….just asstounding.
    An animal with a brain larger than ours, with even more analytical and data processing power…and yet sea world has the world believe it mistook a ponytail for a toy.

    Please continue doing what you do, and know that people are listening and some day Sea World will be exposed for the dancing bear extravaganza that they are…. X

  29. April 20, 2011 2:41 pm

    Wow – you guys did such an impressive job covering all of the facts. I just donated $ to support the great work you are doing here to get the true information out to the media and the public.

    One thing is clear, while SeaWorld wants to appear to be honoring the memory of Dawn Brancheau’s death, they are simultaneously misleading the public and lying about the circumstances that resulted in her death, AND blaming Dawn for being negligent for her own death.

    This tragedy started unfolding with SeaWorld’s decision to bring Tilikum to Orlando in the first place. Had he been retired to a sea pen after Keltie Byrne’s death, instead of being the main breeder for SeaWorld’s collection, two more deaths could have been avoided – and Tili could have spent the last 20 years living some semblance of a normal life instead of being forced to perform stupid tricks for his food.

    No wonder SeaWorld has tried to keep the upcoming OSHA hearings closed to the public:

    What else are they hiding??

    Thanks again for doing all the hard work to get this information out there!

  30. April 20, 2011 1:35 pm

    Dear The Orca Project, this is one of the best investigative journalism pieces that I’ve read, & THE best regarding this particular topic.

    It was an obvious left arm grab.

    Thanks for assembling all of the information in one location and doing the time consuming work of using the Freedom of Information Act and awaiting the paperwork. Hopefully the large media companies will begin to see the light, pick up some details here, and stop relying on the sea circus to provide (false) facts. It’s interesting to see how your underfunded operation is taking on and effectively challenging a multi-billion dollar corporation. I guess it helps when you are offering the truth (when you do that, you don’t require a public relations department). How can I offer a contribution to help? This website is leading the way, and I hope others will find you online, contribute, and spread the word.

  31. Sharon Stamos permalink
    April 20, 2011 12:11 pm

    I’ve been following this story since that tragic day as I am a decades long patron of the park here in Orlando. The evidence is now very clear, thanks to your in-depth article, that Tilly in fact grabbed her by the arm and not her ponytail. Chuck Tompkins is a complete liar, and Thad Lacinak is an arrogant SOB (to put it nicely). Why do they even go to him if he doesn’t work for Sea World any longer?

    It is beyond frustrating to read all the news media reports that to this very day state, “Tilikum the killer whale who grabbed Dawn’s ponytail and drown her…..” etc., because I knew in my gut they were lying. I recall all the stories that came out last year right after, and they were always changing. And then to listen to all these videos, read the Sheriff report witness statements, and still hear Sea World saying he grabbed her ponytail? It enrages me as I have friends who knew Dawn and were buying the story that it was some accident. It wasn’t.

    I will share it around and tell all my friends who still visit the park thinking Sea World is an up and up company. They aren’t. I will never step foot inside that place again. Never imagined I’d say that, but how can people support a company that prides itself on taking the best care of these animals when they lie straight in the face of John Q. Public?

    Thank you so much again for this very telling article.

  32. greenapt permalink
    April 20, 2011 11:09 am

    Look at the aerial view of the tanks which the orca’s suffer. TINY! This should be illegal in and of itself. Not sure how anyone can give $75 to contribute to cruelty when they could go see an orca in the wild which there is no bigger awe.

    Let’s stop with the stupid human tricks we make the animals perform and let’s get real—how many people donate to conservation after going to Sea World, the zoo or the circus. I’d think very little because they are there to see a show, a spectacle. I can only hope that more people realize that seeing animals in their natural habitat is the most exciting view of all.

  33. April 20, 2011 10:59 am

    While reading all of the articles and accounts about this tragedy, I was really confused why the reports that came out at the beginning kept talking about her getting grabbed by the arm and then that just disappeared from the accounts about that day.

    Thank you for clarifying what is in it for SeaWorld for people to believe the ponytail theory.


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  10. Free Tilikum! | Jour 4460 Chatter
  11. Blackfish (2013) and How SeaWorld Doth Protest Too Much | Aflixionado
  12. SeaWorld Ponders Defeat in OSHA Ruling. Trainer Death May Alter Industry Forever « The Orca Project
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