Killer whale drowns trainer and considered unsafe. So set it free

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Killer whale drowns trainer and considered unsafe. So set it free

Tilikum, a killer whale kept in isolation because of previous attacks on people, drowned its trainer after a show at SeaWorld. The question is what will become of the Orca now? Instead of killing it, or isolating it further, why not just let the poor animal go free? Its been imprisoned for 27 years for the sole purpose of entertaining humans. It a life sentence for an animal that did no wrong.

Its inhumane that such a big creature is trapped in a small pool for 27 years. Really you can't blame the Orca for what it did. Keeping the whale imprisoned and making it perform for people is an injustice that needs to be rectified.

The killer whale that drowned his female trainer yesterday will not be put down even though he has been involved in two other human deaths, according to staff at SeaWorld in Florida.

Tillikum, a huge bull orca which has spent 27 years in captivity, grabbed Dawn Brancheau as she was affectionately rubbing his head at the side of the whale pool at around 2pm. Watching tourists were eating their buffet lunches after the daily 'Dine with Shamu' whale show.

Two holidaymakers taking photos at the pool's underwater viewing area described how they saw Tillikum circling round and round below the surface with Ms Brancheau in his jaws, her face bloodied, and turning her over and over.

"It was terrible. It's very difficult to see the image," Joao Lucio da Costa Sobrinho, 28, told the local Orlando Sentinel newspaper.

An alarm sounded and SeaWorld staff led the tourists out of the viewing area, some of them screaming and with children crying.

No decision had been made yet about what will happen to Tillikum, such as transferring him to another aquarium, but that the animal would not be put down.

"We don't know what was going through the killer whale's head. It just got done doing a wonderful session with Dawn... his behaviour was great... that's the reason that she was rubbing his head," said Mr Tompkins.

Tillikum was captured off the coast of Iceland in 1983 and has had a controversial life. In 1991 he and two other orca were blamed for drowning one of their trainers, a woman part-timer, who lost her balance and fell into their pool while they were performing at Sealife of the Pacific, a park near Victoria in British Colombia that has since closed.

Sold to SeaWorld Orlando in 1992 as a stud animal, in 1999 Tillikum was involved in a second incident when a tourist either stayed behind in the park after hours or broke in and apparently attempted to swim with him.

The man's naked body, bruised and scratched from being dragged round the walls of the pool, was found draped over Tillikum's back the following morning. Despite his injuries doctors said he had probably drowned after suffering hypothermia in the chilly, 13C (55F) waters.

Because of Tillikum's size, at five tonnes the largest killer whale in captivity, and because of the previous deaths, only about a dozen of the park's 29 trainers were authorised to work with him.

There are thought to be 42 orca held in captivity in aquaria around the world. Animal rights groups have condemned the practice.

"For years, Peta has been calling on SeaWorld to stop confining oceangoing mammals to an area that to them is like the size of a bathtub," said a spokesman for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

"We have also been asking the park to stop forcing the animals to perform silly tricks over and over again."

Dr Naomi Rose, a marine mammal scientist with the Humane Society of the United States, said: "Using these animals in entertainment is not good for animals or people. Sadly, we've seen evidence of that again today. Whales and dolphins are large, intelligent, long-lived, socially complex predators who often hunt cooperatively and are capable of swimming a hundred miles in a day. They are unsuited to permanent confinement, often exhibiting neurotic behaviours in these settings."

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By netchicken: posted on 26-2-2010

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