STUDENT VOICES: Killer whales belong in the wild, not in captivity

Belmont secondary writing class members offer their take on the world

I was nine when I went to Sea World theme park and recreational centre. It was an amazing experience. There were so many marine animals, shows, games and rides going on.

At the time, I never thought about how the whales were crammed in a small, confined tank. These whales could be swimming hundreds of miles a day, free in the ocean, but at Sea World they would need to swim more than 3,000 lengths of the tank to equal what they would do in the ocean.

The seals barely have anywhere to swim and the hundreds of penguins were in one small sanctuary.

In 1992 a whale named Tilikum, who was 30 years old and 5,000 kilograms, was sent from Victoria’s Sealand of the Pacific to Sea World in Florida, after a trainer drowned in the whale’s tank. On Feb. 20, 1991, Keltie Byrne, a 21-year-old marine biology student and competitive swimmer, slipped into the pool Tilikum was in. The whale dragged the trainer below the surface.

Tilikum was involved in another death in 1999, when Daniel P. Dukes, 27, was found dead over the whale’s back. The man had come to Sea World the day before and stayed after the park closed. An autopsy found numerous wounds, contusions, and abrasions on his body.

Something that doesn’t make any sense is that Sea World is covered in cameras, at all the entrances and gates, around all the animal cages and even in the whales’ tanks. It’s a little strange how none of the security guards noticed a man being drowned by a large whale.

Tilikum was involved in a third incident in 2010 when he killed 40-year-old trainer Dawn Brancheau. The incident happened after a show. The trainer was rubbing Tilikum as a part of a post-show routine and was grabbed by her left arm and hair and pulled into the water.

At least a dozen people witnessed the incident and eventually directed the whale to a smaller pool, where they tried to calm Tilikum, who finally let go of the trainer’s body.

A Sea World executive, witnesses and video footage from right before the attack indicated that Brocheau had been lying with her face next to Tilikum’s on a slide-out platform.

Tilikum has fathered numerous calves; a good percentage of whales at Sea World are from his blood line.

One whale, Kasatka, was involved in an incident in 2004 when trainer Ken Peters was dragged underwater repeatedly, and shaken underwater in front of the audience. Eventually, Peters got away and was pulled up to safety; he required surgery for his injuries.

Sea World ignored the risks, permitting the possibility of more dangerous situations to come.

Clearly, someone dying isn’t enough to show the owners of Sea World that these animals are not happy nor deserve to be locked away their whole life. They don’t belong in the tanks at Sea World, they belong in their natural habitat.

I hope reading this has given you an idea of what’s happening behind the scenes.

In order to make a change, you can sign petitions through savethewhales.com or help protest against Sea World on behalf of these poor animals.

Hannah Kuiack is in teacher Lauren Frodsham’s Writing 11 class at Belmont secondary.

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