Although footage of the Wednesday, February 24 whale attack which has killed Dawn Brancheau, a 40-year-old trainer at SeaWorld Orlando hasn’t emerged, hundreds of thousands viewers are flocking to YouTube in search of the clip and to watch dozens of whale videos.
Yesterday’s death, according to video interviews and news reports, was not the first time a whale has turned on its trainer. SeaWorld has a history of killer whales becoming aggressive. In each case, spectators watch in horror as trainers are thrown around like feeder fish and pounced on by the enormous animals.
Of the large pool of whale attack videos, viewers have been especially fond of clips that capture carnage and offer information on why the beasts turn on humans. Entertainment venues like SeaWorld also continue to be under fire for keeping killer whales in captivity. Opponents have longed claimed whales belong at sea and when one attacks a human, few should be shocked.
One popular YouTube clip includes an interview with whale expert Nancy Black, who says confining a 20,000-pound animal is a recipe for disaster.
“Whales are top predators,” Black said. “And they are put in a small tank (and) they get stressed out. They look for companionship.”
As for Tillikum, the male killer whale involved in Wednesday’s tragedy, Black says stress and isolation were likely what sparked the whale to behave erratically.
“I think there was a lot of stress involved,” Black said. “I hear that whale was often isolated. And, people were not getting in the water with it because of previous incidents.”
Tilikum has killed before. In 1991, Tili, and two females, killed a trainer in Canada. Officials believe a man entered SeaWorld after hours in 1999 and drowned during an encounter with Tilikum.
Tilikum, footage notes, is kept at SeaWorld as a breeder and now spends much of his time in isolation. Sea animal attractions like SeaWorld began placing killer whales in captivity in the 1960s.