You mean the name ‘killer’ actually comes from somewhere? Yesterday in Orlando, a 12,000 pound killer whale named Tillikum grabbed his trainer by her ponytail and dragged her around and around the tank until she drowned. Or Tillikum came out of the water, grabbed his trainer by the waist, shook her violently, and then dragged her underwater. Accounts of the “accident” vary, but the end result is the same; 40 year old, Dawn Brancheau is dead.
Sea World officials are being very cagey about the accident and even went so far as to issue an initial statement saying that ‘Brancheau slipped into the tank.’ In fact, the humongous Tillicum, the largest of his kind in captivity, has been involved in several previous “accidents.” In 1991 Tillicum and two other killer whales drowned another trainer in British Columbia and in 1999 a man snuck into the park and jumped into Tillicum’s tank. Obviously his death isn’t too much of a shocker. Poor guy was obviously nuts. The craziest part of all this is that it’s not Tillicum’s fault. He’s a 12,000 pound killer whale, why are we trying to pretend that it’s in his nature to live in a tank and do tricks for a whistle and a fish?
A marine conservationist from the American Museum of Natural History disagrees with the “accident” verdict. According to him, killer whales have been domesticated for 70 years and are highly intelligent. He believes Tillicum decided to stop swimming in circles and purposefully jumped out and attacked Brancheau; not to eat her, but to send a message. I think the message is, “Get me the hell out of here. I’m a 12,000 pound whale, not an 8 pound Chihuahua.”
| ATTACKS INVOLVING CAPTIVE ANIMALS
|Some recent maulings and other notable incidents involving captive animals:
Feb. 24, 2010: An employee at SeaWorld Orlando dies after a witness said the whale suddenly came up from the water, grabbed the trainer around the waist and “thrashed her all around” to the point the trainer’s shoe fell off.
Feb. 16, 2009: A 200-pound chimpanzee named Travis ripped off a woman’s hands, nose, lips and eyelids as she tried to lure him back into his cage. A police officer shot the chimpanzee after it tried to get into his patrol car.
Dec. 25, 2007: A Siberian tiger named Tatiana escapes from its enclosure at the San Francisco Zoo, kills one man and mauls two others before being shot dead.
July 14, 2007: A 244-pound Sumatran tiger named Berani bites a zookeeper in the head several times in an exhibit yard at the San Antonio Zoo. He survived.
Feb. 24, 2007: A 140-pound jaguar named Jorge fatally mauls a zookeeper at the Denver Zoo before being shot to death.
Dec. 22, 2006: Tatiana reaches through her cage’s iron bars and mauls a female zookeeper during a public feeding at the San Francisco Zoo.
Nov. 29, 2006: A 17-foot-long, 7,000-pound orca named Kasatka bites a SeaWorld’s San Diego park trainer, holding him underwater several times during a show. The trainer, who had been attacked on two prior occasions in 1993 and 1999, escaped with a broken foot.
Sept. 10, 2005: Three chimpanzees from Zoo Nebraska are shot and killed after they escape from their enclosure and could not be captured.
March 3, 2005: Two chimpanzees at the Animal Ranch wildlife sanctuary near Bakersfield, Calif., attack a man and his wife, maiming the man, before being shot to death.
— Associated Press