The tragic death of a trainer at Sea World has us thinking ... should we stop taking our families to watch wild animals perform?
Forty-year-old Dawn Brancheau died yesterday while working as a trainer at Sea World in Orlando. A massive 12,000 pound orca named Tillikum grabbed Brancheau by her ponytail and thrashed her to death in front of a horrified audience -- an audience that included kids. This particular whale is known to be aggressive, and has been responsible for two other deaths.
Tillikum was captured in the wild in Iceland back in 1983, and has been kept in small tanks for most of his life. Many marine biologists believe that he was under serious stress. "I'm sure it was a high stress situation," says Nancy Black, lead marine biologist at California's Monterey Bay Whale Watch. "Being kept in a small tank like that, especially because he was originally from the wild. I'm sure he had a hard life, kept in a holding pen, not getting a lot of exercise." The whale was used as stud in Sea World's breeding program since 1992. His frequent breeding -- he has sired at least 17 calves -- and high hormone levels may have also contributed to his aggressive behavior.
We've all been to zoos and wild animal parks to see up close and personal the wonders of nature. Sea World and other parks do great things for the environment and animal habitat -- they rehab sick and injured animals, and do research on how to save endangered species. But this seems as if it is a recipe for disaster -- capturing a wild animal and forcing it to perform three times a day, seven days a week for an audience of popcorn eating parents and families? No wonder think whale was aggressive! It's not in their nature to be jumping out of the water to the delighted oohs and aahs of an audience.
What do you think? Are these wild animal shows safe to take your family to?