Diary Of A Killer Whale: You Will Not Be Seeing Dawn Brancheau Die

Media organizations have given up on their legal efforts to force videos and photos of Dawn Brancheau’s death into the public domain. Here is a report from the Orlando Sentinel, one of the media outlets seeking access to the material:

The Orlando Sentinel and other media outlets have abandoned an effort to ensure public access to video recordings and photographs documenting the killing of a SeaWorld Orlando trainer by one of the park’s killer whales.

The move is a victory for SeaWorld and the family of the late Dawn Brancheau. The two parties have been battling in court to block any release of the images capturing the Feb. 24 tragedy, in which a 6-ton killer whale named Tilikum pulled Brancheau into his tank by her hair and drowned her in a violent episode in front of some park guests.

The court dispute revolved primarily around images recorded by SeaWorld surveillance cameras — including one capturing an underwater view into Tilikum’s tank and another mounted atop the park’s 400-foot-tall Sky Tower — which SeaWorld turned over to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office as part of that agency’s investigation into Brancheau’s death.

A lawyer for the Sentinel’s parent company said Thursday that representatives for SeaWorld and the Brancheau family were unwilling to accept a settlement offer in which news organizations would have agreed not to publish any of the images or air the video in exchange for the right to have their reporters inspect the materials.

The only reason to ever make any of this sort of material publicly available is if it helps answer questions about what happened, and can help prevent a similar tragedy. Anything else is just prurience, and voyeurism of the sickest kind. I have watched a person die on video. In that case the video was the only way to understand why he died. It was still an intensely harrowing, and painful experience (which is why I haven’t supplied the link to the video).

I am not sure what photos are involved, but if they depict scenes from the aftermath, when efforts to resuscitate Dawn were being made, and when she was cut out of her wetsuit, then I don’t think they come close to meeting this standard.

As for the video, there are two videos. One was shot from a camera on the SeaWorld Orlando Sky Tower, which is 400-feet high. The camera was trained on G pool where Dawn was fighting for her life after the pool alarm sounded. From what I am told, you can’t really see anything in this video, so it has no real probative value.

The second video was shot from a camera which gives an underwater view of G pool. It shows a splash, and then Tilikum and Dawn underwater. This is the key video. It shows Tilikum killing Dawn. And while it does not show Tilikum grabbing Dawn and pulling her into the pool (which would probably be the most important sequence in terms of understanding the tragedy, and what can be learned), it does show how he behaved in the water with her. It would show his affect, his energy, his responses (or lack thereof) to recall signals and to Dawn’s efforts to escape. It would be extremely painful to see, but it also clearly has probative value.You can get a sense of what is on that video from the summary contained in the Orange County Sheriff’s investigative report.

This summary is somewhat helpful, but obviously there is much more on the video, and ten outside experts viewing it would probably pick out a bunch of important and informative details.

So of all the material under dispute, this underwater camera video, to my mind, was the single piece of evidence for which public disclosure was most compelling. However, when I say public, I do not mean completely public–as in posted on YouTube where it would be a never-ending source of pain for Dawn’s friends and family, and a snuff film for the millions of sickos out there who get off on watching people die. I mean that it should be accessible to journalists and other responsible parties who would like to view it to learn whatever can be learned from a tragic event.

For this reason, the compromise that was proposed–in which journalists could view the video in private, but images from the video or the video itself would not be published or posted–was a sound compromise.

I can understand why SeaWorld would resist having the media pore over the video for a better understanding of what happened, and writing and airing more stories about the tragedy. But I am not sure why the Brancheau family resisted. They, more than anyone, should want to know exactly what happened and why (and feel as certain as they can be that they do in fact know what happened). Beyond that, I am sure they would like to do what they can to help make sure this never happens to anyone else’s child, sibling, or spouse. Letting outside experts and media access that video under strict conditions is one of the ways to do exactlty that.

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39 thoughts on “Diary Of A Killer Whale: You Will Not Be Seeing Dawn Brancheau Die”

  1. I am in agreement that orca/animal behavioural experts should have access to the video. It should be analysed by people who understand what they are looking it – the same way that any incidents within schools, the police force, businesses, universities, hospitals, prisons are reviewed and evaluated.

    This way, mistakes can be learned from and an insight into this particular behaviour exhibited by Tilikum can be gained. It is a sensitive topic but knowledge gained, I’m sure, would be important for the well-being of captive orca (and their trainers).

    However, for this very reason, I don’t understand why the media should be able to view the video?

    1. Sam: thanks for taking the time to post thoughtful comments. The reason I think it is important for journalists to be able to view the video is that for journalists to ask the right questions about what the video shows–of SeaWorld and experts–and for journalists to write about any important insights that can be gained from the video, they need to see the video. Journalists are the bridge between the experts and the public.

      1. Tim Zimmermann, Ohh go play in traffic & stop trying to force your disease on everyone else you ugly, no good, PETAphile, AR, wacko, nutjob,terrorist liar. You knew what effect your piece of propaganda would have. Your ultimate goal was to shut Sea World down and you know it. Why should journalists like you be allowed to see that tape? Maybe so you can make up more biased,pieces of AR propaganda to suit you AR agenda. I imagine Dawn would be ticked at you trying to take advantage of her death to try to close down the place she obviously loved.

  2. Although I understand your thoughts about this–I don’t agree with the media access to the video because today there is more sensationalist coverage versus good investigative journalism on such matters.

    In today’s world getting a glimpse of someone’s agony, pain, or corpse isn’t necessary to impart the story but for some reason it is an increasing trend.

    Also, few lay people understand or can interpret animal behavior and actions–so other than the experts I’d say the current decision is best.

    As for the family, why would they want video of footage of someone they love being violently thrashed shown to a bunch of people other than those who could interpret what was happening?

    I certainly would not plus the more access to the video, the more chances the footage would get out.

  3. I have to say I also don’t think that the media should have access to the video – there are other ways of getting important information out there (scientific articles, publications… plus a lot of scientists also write journalistic-style articles for magazines).

  4. I have to agree with Sam and Ark Lady, I see no need for the media to gain access to this video. However, to me, even as a supporter of SeaWorld, I would like for outside experts on this species to have an opportunity to review it. For safety moving forward, I think it is important for those that do not have an emotional and financial ties to the situation to give opinions so future mistakes are not made. The journalists can then get the experts opinions in relation to what was learned for their articles.

  5. Let’s not forget that SW was initially inclined to go with, “Dawn slipped, fell, and drowned”. It was only after the Connells persisted and came forward with eyewitness testimony, did the company recant, and say she was pulled in. They (the Connells) also made it clear that the safety spotter was oblivious to the initial take-down. The call-back system failed, including the tone box, water slaps, and fish in the water.

    By accepting the sterilized representation above, we are allowing a relative cloak of secrecy to be perpetuated by a company that wants us to believe Tilikum didn’t know what he was doing, and essentially “played” with her to death. In reality, she was chosen (for whatever reason), brutalized, scalped, fractured, dislocated, and dismembered. Tilikum’s jaws had to be pried open after he was levitated by a pneumatic lift and tag-teamed by lots of workers. None of that “reality” comes across from the document above.

    Journalists, like Tim, are trained to craft language in a way that paints a picture (much better than the black & white above). That is why they should be allowed to describe, in lay terms, what they saw (on video). This can then be fused with expert opinion, and the public can make up it’s own mind. There are plenty of witnesses that described an arm grab, which implies a more sinister act vs the long pony-tail theory. Most of the “arm grab” witnesses were excluded from official statements (but do appear in newspapers like the LA Times, and St Petersburg Times). The Connells got their eyewitness testimony attached only as an addendum after the investigation was closed at the Orange County Sheriff’s Office. However, OSHA has seen the videos, and has not yet rendered an opinion.

  6. Unless legitimate journalists like Tim Z. are allowed to see the full extent of available video and can report on it, the sea circus gets to continue feeding us whatever corporate/industry line they want. They’ve made a living doing this. Sea World is beginning to feel the walls close in a bit; former trainers (including those who worked with Tili, Dawn and managers) and other employees are beginning to expose them for what they are and what they do. Sea World will predictably pull the ropes tighter on the story.

    Sea World is like the wizard in the Wizard of Oz. Once you’re behind the curtain, you realize that the people running the show are nearly all uneducated and almost exclusively small-thinking . There is only marginal intelligence directing the animal training department, and those in charge have created a veil which has allowed them operate with their seriously limited abilities. The industry was started by cowboys and it is still run by cowboys and t is easy to understand why they want to keep control of the video. Its release exposes them to more scrutiny than their PR department can handle.

  7. The primary source of the “pony-tail theory”, also known as the “large mouth bass theory”, is safety spotter Jan Topoleski. He claimed to see a current of water “blow” Dawn’s “long pony tail” into Tilikum’s mouth. He also stated that Tilikum has no toys similar to Dawns hair (injecting the notion of an animal that was playing with a toy).

    One element of the Connell’s eyewitness testimony, and reason for their persistence, was how grossly misleading SW’s initial statements were. Both insisted that Ms Connell had to repeatedly yell, “He took her down, He took her down!”, before the spotter took action. Additionally, reports from at least one underwater guest clearly indicated that Dawn was seen inside of Tilikum’s mouth prior to hearing the alarm go off. This also seems to be inconsistent with the sworn statement of Topoleski, who claimed he immediately hit the alarm after seeing Tilikum grab the pony tail. From an OSHA safety standpoint, this has implications. A new “pony-tail rule” has already been put into place. Female trainers are now required to wear their hair up in a bun. An arm grab opens a can of worms, with no “quick fix”.

    Take a look at the distances involved above. Note how far the safety spotter is from the location of the take-down. Also, it seems unlikely, that a current of (clear) water could be visualized “blowing” a pony-tail, especially when Tilikum was positioned between Dawn and Jan. It would be difficult to see that.

    It is clear that that Tilikum used multiple holds, including by the hair, and especially as the nets were being drawn around him. This is clear. And ultimately, the result is the same, the tragic loss of an experienced trainer. However, with OSHA’s report looming, it is in SW’s interest to perpetuate the pony-tail story. It is however, unlikely that the primary source of that story saw the initial take-down.

    1. From the Last Pic they show her slowly in the water as if Her arm hand that proble smelled a lot like fiSH from her just FEEDING HIM a little…. he had her are hand ,THEN by the TIME the guy the Guy rang the bell the ONe looker said NOT RIGHT AWAY he then see her with her hair in his mouth I read it took him a while.. but at FIRst looking at the pic her hand are whatever,, he proble smelled FISH he is hungry….always she smelt like fish for starters

  8. Unfortunately, without the science, the facts taken from a video (such as this one) will portray Tilikum in a negative light. The only way to get around that would be to use anthropomorphism. However, this would also be a negative thing as we want to get away from the “dolphin smile”.

    And if the captive industry has done any good at all for orca, it is that they have changed the negative perception once held of orca. It would be horrifying to see people revert their views of orca to vengeful, cruel killers once more.

    A media story of interest will not “stand up in court”, and worse, it could possibly cause problems with the actual science – i.e. controversy, details may be printed incorrectly, slight differing in details, etc.

    Any reports or papers published scientifically are accessible to the public – the information would be there for them to read. And as I have previously mentioned, a number of scientists do write journalistic-style articles… as they do understand the science behind it, they could more accurately write an easily-digestable piece which is enjoyable to read.

    Also, another perspective –
    As someone who is very much anti-captivity, I firmly believe that a person doesn’t always have to “see to believe”.

    We shouldn’t have to see orca in captivity to love, respect, protect and want to conserve them. You don’t have to see them to become obsessed with them and to find the motivation to learn everything you can about them. You don’t have to see them to describe or detail them.

    Marine parks argue that you do, right? That’s one argument they use for the keeping and display of these animals.

    So why do we have to see a video to understand the horrors of what is shown within it? Why would a journalist need to see that video to detail what everyone knows is in it? Why would a reader need to understand the feelings that the journalist felt when he saw that video? Prior to seeing orca myself, I still felt love for orca, I still felt a passion for them, I still respected them and felt a desire to conserve them and act for them in issues where they don’t have a voice.

    I have not seen the video but I have a good idea of what went on based on what has been released and reports that have been made to date. As a scientist who has had some training in writing journalistically, I could compose an article that incorporates the science yet details the events in a colourful way that would really drive home what went on that evening.

    At the same time, what would be holding me back from doing so is the fact that I am not an expert in behaviour or more specifically orca behaviour. And I could easily drop something into that story that could have a negative effect on the goal that I would be trying to achieve – the awareness I would be trying to raise. And I am a scientist in training who has experience (however minimal) in animal behaviour.

    Imagine the rolling ball of negative effects that could inadvertently be set off by a well-meaning journalist who has no training in science, no experience in animal behaviour and no clue about the behaviours of the animal concerned?

    It is great that the Connells went to the media with eye-witness testimony. And it is great that the media are raising awareness about this story and the plight of captive marine animals. But in my opinion, journalists do not need to see the video. And an appeal for the video to be released to certain media figures could have negative impacts on a request for specialist scientists to view the video.

    And the science is what is important – that is what should come first because at the end of the day, that is what will act as evidence that orca and other cetaceans are not suited to captivity.

  9. And just to add as an after-thought….

    The kind of media articles we do need are articles like this (which I think are excellent, Tim!)…

    Articles which make the reader ask their own questions and ones which give the reader a motivation to go and find out for themselves why Tilikum acted as he did. Articles that inspire the reader to go check out the science.

    Yes, the contents of that video may be detailed in such articles (and they have) but it doesn’t mean the journalists in question saw the actual footage. And that is what makes the piece (and the journalist) even more special – they have created a whirlwind out of something they haven’t seen, whilst remaining respectful to the science.

    And they join the reader in the fact that neither have seen the footage – SeaWorld are keeping us ALL in the dark and that speaks louder than words ever could. In this we share.

  10. It is understood that wild orcas do not attack humans. When kayaking amongst them, they could care less. Tilikum’s behavior is pathologic, and a consequence of his confinement by humans (us). We thank SW for helping to understand the orca as a highly intelligent, self-aware entity. It is because of that, the court of public opinion needs to change. The sequelae of the public display of O. orca includes, but is not limited to, diseased teeth, collapsed dorsal fins, and pathologic behavior, including the death of 4 humans, and the crippling of others. This pathology needs to be expressed and understood by the public, reviewed by experts, and given it’s best chance to shift public opinion. I respect your thoughtful comments, Sam. Thank You.

  11. Jeff, thank you again for bringing up such pertinent information. You are spot on when you say,

    “Let’s not forget that SW was initially inclined to go with, “Dawn slipped, fell, and drowned”. It was only after the Connells persisted and came forward with eyewitness testimony, did the company recant, and say she was pulled in.”

    I watched most of this on television and you are correct. If the Connells did not say what they did, Seaworld would have went with the “Tilikum pulled Dawn in Story” I remember seeing the Connells being interviewed on television saying something to the extent of, “I saw the whale grab her and take her under, and then Seaworld reported that she fell in.” You could see the stress in the witness’ expression and voice, as I believe she new Seaworld was not telling the truth.

    1. *Typo on my part — What I meant to say was if the Connells did not witness and report what they saw to the media, I think Seaworld would have went with the “Dawn slipped and fell in the pool” explanation, in my opinion.

  12. And to add to what I said above, and this is my opinion, but I am sure all the trainers that witnessed the event were instructed by Seaworld on what to say (or what NOT to say). I think this goes back to a previous thread on why trainers do not speak out against Seaworld.

  13. There is no doubting that Tili killing Dawn was a deliberate and tragic event. But I find it a little disturbing that there appears to be an undercurrent of “blame” or something I can’t quite put my finger on when it comes to the spotter Jan Topoleski, his reaction time and eye witness account. I’ve read it in several articles on this site now. I’ve seen two video interviews and read 1 statement with The Connells and in the initial interview Ms Connell herself also said he took her down “by her hair or something” it’s on youtube and is conducted in her hotel room while sitting on a bed with the news playing in the background. It was only in a later interview, perhaps after reviewing her husbands video footage, that she said Tilli grabbed Dawn by the arm or shoulder. She later repeated that account in a statement I read while adding it took 5mins for the spotter to react. Her account of his reaction time was disproved when OCPD compared the time the alarm was raised to the splash in the water caught on video time stamp footage. It was consistent with moving from where the spotter viewed the take down to where the alarm was according to the report I read. There are 40 or so witness statements easily available on the internet. I also think if you weren’t there and standing in Jan’s shoes you can’t say for certain what he believes he saw. I think we all need to remember that a friend and colleague died before his eyes and he could do nothing to stop it. Imagine the horror!!! While I know you’ll all jump on me and say his accounts leads to misconceptions I disagree..regardless of HOW she was grabbed the fact remains she was grabbed and taken down in to the pool to her death in a deliberate act by Tili. He then hunted her through the water and killed her for whatever reason and refused to give her up at the end.
    As for journalists being allowed to view the footage a huge NO to that…police and health and safety officials, scientists and animal behavior experts are the only ones required to view it. Enough has been factual, insightful and realistic stories have been written about the events by journalists to date without seeing the footage and I think that says it all.

    1. Anne: thanks for your thoughtful comment. Personally, I think there is a lot of confusion around who saw what, and what happened. For me the bottom line is that no one knows for sure (at least given the evidence we have right now). And while I agree that how he grabbed her is not as important as the fact that he grabbed her, and then, tragically, killed her, I believe it is a nuance of the story that is worth examining.

      1. Tim…thanks for reading my comments…I guess I agree to some extent it is a nuance worth examining, but for me only in so much as it could prove that making these animals perform should be stopped. Let the vets, animal behavior experts and scientists determine that if they can handle the footage.

        OT I’m curious to know if Dawn’s husband or family are pursuing any legal action against Seaworld like The Connells are? Is any other family pursuing legal action who witnessed? Also I read that OSHA have fined Seaworld $75k is that true? What a pitiful amount compared to what Seaworld make daily off these whales and that trainers whose lives they risk? Someone needs to change that level of fine and make it relevant to what the business earns. Example 10% of the daily profit for a year. It seems to me that the trainers aren’t even safe in the slide outs. It’s natural behavior for these whales to beach themselves and drag prey into the water, toss it around and drown it. What is to stop a whale grabbing a trainer by the leg and drag them in to the water as they lean over to feed it . For that matter how on earth are they collecting Tili’s sperm these days if they aren’t allowed to interact with him? Can’t imagine Seaworld giving up that breeding programme.

        Its just too much to think about at times. Poor Dawn and poor Tili

  14. I don’t think anyone has the “right” to view the accident videos or images aside from the appropriate investigators of this accident who need to view them for investigative purposes. Members of the media and the general public do not need access to viewing these things. The media hypes everything up anyway, and has no legitimate purpose for viewing these things or making them public. Most people would only want to view these things to satisfy their own sick and twisted, morbid curiosity, and that is not a justifiable reason for releasing these things to the public. These images and videos should be destroyed. Dawn Brancheau’s family has been through enough pain without having to endure total strangers getting kicks out of viewing the death of Dawn. Anyone who would even want to watch this video is a sick, cruel, heartless jerk with no morals. Shame on what the human race has become.

  15. There are many people in this world who would like to view the videos so as to assess Tilikum’s behaviour during this incident in order to help better his life. Something which I am sure everyone, no matter who’s “side” you are, would want to happen.

  16. Interesting how you seem to think that anyone who isn’t a journalist and wants to view this to understand how and why it happened is a “sicko” and into snuff films. Some people have good reasons to want to have access to that kind of material in certain situations, and yet you are dismissing them out of hand, and attacking them. You don’t think that the general public has their own questions and conclusions to draw of their own that you seem to think only journalists have the right to make? Disappointing.

  17. DITTO and thank you very much, rabby. i was going to leave a similar comment but you beat me to the punch. tim zimmermann is not only disappointing in his assessment but completely wrong. i am going to have to check into the foia to see if access may be possible…

  18. I am appalled that Sea World is still open, OSHA had it right they “willfully” violated safety regulations, and are still trying to fight to allow their trainers to get back in the water with the Orcas. I am so confused as to why Dawn’s family hasn’t filled any lawsuits against Sea World, they are completely responsible for Dawn’s death and for years kept Tili’s aggressive behavior a secret from the trainers and the public. Granted I understand that all trainers should know that there are risks that come with working with wild animals, but Sea World purposely fabricated stories/lies that were told to former Sea World trainers about Tili’s past when he first arrived in Orlando.

    Former trainers are just now speaking out against Sea World and the way the animals are treated. I honestly believe the reason the footage will not be released is because showing how deliberate the attack was will do more damage to Sea World than any eye witness’ testimony, and Sea World will fight tooth and nail to keep that footage away from the public because there is no way they can make light of the attack. When the footage of the attack on Ken Peters in 2006 was released Sea World pulled the biggest trick in the magicians book “misdirection”. “Yes Kasatka attacked Ken, but look how well we train our trainers that he was able to stay calm and diffuse the situation, aren’t we doing great?” they were able to make light of that attack. Now getting back to the footage of the attack on Dawn, I personally am unable to stomach such gore, but I believe everyone has the right to see what captivity does to these animals and what it drives them to do. My heart goes out to Dawn’s family, but they need to fight to prevent this from ever happening again, and we all need to band together to fight to see that all these animals are released. It was the children of the world that banded together to push for the rehabilitation and release of Keiko the star of “Free Willy”. These are intelligent animals that can be rehabilitated to be released back into the wild, and if some are completely unable to be released well then a sea pen would do just fine where they would be able to feel the natural salt water, feel the currents run over their bodies, learn to hunt, and interact with other wildlife.

    Sea World claims that having these animals in captivity allows the public to get a better understanding of these animals. The only thing the public learns from going to Sea World is the lies the employees are trained to tell the public, and the look of a live Orca. Monterey Bay Aquarium gives the same visual stimulation with models of whales and dolphins. When that baby Grey Whale was rescued and rehabilitated by Sea World (only when the public was outraged that Sea World wouldn’t help the animal until they saw all the wonderful press they would get from helping the animal) and released back into the wild one of the rescuers said, that should be the show at Sea World, saving animals and wildlife and letting the public see them rehabilitate them and release them back into the wild. All Earth’s creatures deserve to live free without fear and without imprisonment for the joy of humankind. I will get off my soap box now.

    1. i TOTALLY agree with you. SeaWorld is purpously mistreating these poor animals not for educating the public, but to make money, and unfortunately its working.

    2. I think, could it be likely, SeaWorld compensated the family, for not placing a judgment against them.

      All SeaWorld needs, Is for the trainers family, To file against them, in conjunction with the other judgments, and their goose is cooked!!

      All they need Is for the darn family members to turn on them, and it’s over my friend, they’re screwed!!

      So they paid them, to be NICE!!


  19. Reading these now after the release of Blackfish is very interesting. I am reading a lot that people should not be allowed to watch the video of her death. I completely understand the family not wanting it released. However, I think it is of the utmost importance for the public to see first hand what is really going on at these parks. I am shocked to see people say it doesn’t need to be seen. Shocked! It needs to be seen by all that are willing to see it, I myself am not sure I would want to. However if people don’t believe that SW puts the animals in a position that creates stress and can lead to accidents such as these it is crucial that they see the truth behind the SW veil! I’m blown away by this idea to keep it all unseen.

  20. i think the video of her death should be made public, not to cause pain to he loved ones but to educate the public about the danger of keeping Orcas in captivity. Tilly had been linked to previous deaths, as have other Orcas that are not onlyin captivity, but in the seaWorld facility at present. if this had been common knowledge, the public and other workkers at seaworld would have been made aware of the danger. Tilly should not be regarded as violent. he shou8ld be regarded as desperate. imagine being taken from your home at a young age to a place where you are forced to be submissive to violent females who cause you physical and emotional distress much of the time. imagine living in a small pen where you had dead, frozen fish packed with pills instead of your natural prey, which in Tilikium’s case would have been mostly mammals and fish. imagine having a damn drill go into your teeth without any anesthetic (honestly, i think many people have gone to the dentist and their dentist starts drilling before you’re totally numb. not pleasant, you know?) the list of injustices against these animals continues on. jnow, im not faulting the trainers, most of them get almost mimimum wage and try to help the animals as best they can, im aiming at administration. they’ve REPEATEDLY tried to cover up the deaths and injuries of both trainers and orcas alike, and what for? the bottom dollar, ladies and gents. C.S. Lewis believed that we should treat animals as the equals they are, and i agree. SeaWorld has an odd way of showing theses majestic animals respect and equality, dont you think?

    1. I have read all of the comments and agree with a great many of them. But I don’t really see an answer to the ongoing problem which is Sea World and the big business that it is today. I am not sure of the exact dollar amount that they are making annually but I know it’s in the billions. They have no interest what so ever in doing anything that will change that. To them keeping anything negative from the public with regard to Orca behavior being anything but normal in captivity is going to be of the utmost importance to them. In short, if Orcas are becoming psychotic and filled with anger and frustrations in captivity you can be sure that SW will do everything possible to hide that fact and use every means possible to do it. They want us to go on believing in the myth of Orcas are happy in captivity. They live longer lives , eat better food and are healthier due to veterinary care. We know now thanks in large part to the film Blackfish that this is just not true. These amazing and very intelligent creatures are suffering in captivity!! They attack one another on a regular basis. They are forced to live in conditions that are not natural to them. They are forced to perform on a daily basis for humans, the very creatures that kid napped them in the first place! If they hate us I think it would be a natural reaction to everything we have done to them. I my opinion there is really only one way to change this situation and that is through the pocket book of Sea World. It may take time but only by making the public aware of just how bad this business is and stopping people from wanting to go to Sea World with their children to see the “wonderful sea life” will a difference ever be made. To make the exploitation of Orcas so distasteful that no one will want to support any sea park anywhere ever again. But first we have to make people aware. Films like Blackfish are just so important right now. It’s the beginning and there is a long way to go but I feel very hopeful that as humans we all want to do what is right for the Orca. I know that for myself, I always thought that Sea World was a wonderful place to take children. Today I only want my children to know and understand how wrong it is to capture and keep in captivity for their entire lives such beautiful and amazing animals. I want them to grow up knowing that the right to live free is the right of all creatures especially those that live in the wild.
      today I understand Sea World as more of a circus with Orcas performing circus acts for the entertainment of us. And for their food because they don’t eat if they don’t perform. It really breaks my heart and I’m so sorry I didn’t know or pay attention before now. But I know that from now on I will do all I can to make as many people aware of the truth about sea parks as I possibly can. I think this is what each of us can do and that it will have an effect. So much more is known about this today than just two years ago. Changing just one persons mind can make a difference. When people stop going to visit parks like SW, and their profits dry up, they will finally close and go away.

  21. Was not pulled in by her ponytail. Seaworld wants you to believe that she was dragged in by her ponytail, so they can simply put bonnets on the women’s hair and put them back in the water with the Orcas. Anyone who saw the video where she is being pulled in by her arm knows the truth.

  22. What I don’t understand is why there is no plan of action when something goes wrong like this. The spotter should be armed with a grappling gun or some type of weapon that can be fired at the orca. Just like at the penitentiary, the tower guard has a rifle if an emergency arrizes. He can stop the violence instantly with one shot.

    Everybody seems to just stand by helplessly as this poor woman was torn to shreds. Also how many more people have to die before Tilly is finally released to the wild where she belongs?

  23. I’m confused by this. For the last year, prior to initiating a serious campaign to shut down Sea World as an antiquated, tired manifestation of the never- ending-vacuum that continues to personify baby-booming greed and whine, I’ve researched every piece of information I could find regarding killer whales and captivity. Captivity in its nature first, then in its application. I’m an attorney so available literature is unfortunately gravely limited when I try to move outside the legal argument. Nonetheless, based on what I got thus far, are you serious? A victory for Sea World? When, and how has that corporate whore ever, in its entire history of operation, NOT maneuvered itself into a position of collateral control and invulnerability to such an extent it’s deserving of an “under dog” status weary but righteous and victorious after a “drawn out” legal battle? Have I missed something somewhere? Second, again, are you kidding? You’ve placed “responsible” and “press” in the same sentence without qualification or innuendo and simultaneously inject information proven to be wrong but represented as true. She wasn’t pulled by her hair. Perhaps when you wrote hair you meant to say “arm” but just missed it; that, and every critical issue around which the captivity of killer whales coalesce. I don’t get your objective. Do you?

  24. Altho i was fortunate to see the footage, I am sad because when i go to cite my speech in school i cannot link a video or any actual reports that were taken down since then. I guess they will have to just take my word. the video was graphic and infront of visitors, also there were more than one, several videos were uploaded in 2010, ^ commented above me is right to say it was not her hair, it was indeed her arm. thats aside the fact that it happened. Its in the past we must move on. We now know that there are many Foundations that have plans set up for when SeaWorld looses there right to showcase orcas. I just hope that we can band together and make it happen faster. Its not just SeaWorld that holds captive orcas, and its not just Orcas that are being controlled and enclosed to be an act for profit. please keep protesting these events by not going to them. Dont go to wild animal photo-opts or any fairs including wild animals. they claim to be educational but we will never learn about them if they are normally being held captive. we should study and reseach orca and other wild life but in their own natural untouched environment, Funds should go towards keeping them protected and trophy hunters away.

  25. there is partial video of this event. Its tragic. The Whale scappled her and you can vaguely see in video that Dawn doesn’t have her hair anymore. The whale eventually dismembered her (not in video). Here is video: http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=06b_1267765340

    The biggest question I have is doesn’t water parks have some type of stun gun that can be fired at Whale when attack is under-way.

  26. I just recently came into contact with this debate because of the Netflix Doc-u on the bias of Seaworld in general. And while yes, I do (as a human) have voyeuristic tendencies, I do think there’s something to be learned from videos associated with traumatic death.

    I don’t think you even need a degree in marine-anything to find value in watching a video of Dawn being pulled and held aggressively by a sea-creature below the water. Trauma resonates with us, it teaches us so much. It’s the reason why they now make CGI car crash videos and show them to kids in Drivers Education, it’s why the ‘truth’ campaign is so effective for curbing people from smoking–videography has SO MUCH teaching power. Seeing the worst of something happen gives us the empathy without having to experience the worst thing that can happen.

    There’s so much to be learned from Dawn’s video. Violence is never the answer to solving a problem, but when violence happens–analyzing it and learning from it can solve the problem from happening in the first place: ‘How do we keep it from happening again?’ ‘What is this creature’s problem, and how can we fix it?’

    This problem goes for more than just the microcosm that is Seaworld, it also goes into all animal entertainment acts: circus included. When is it ‘training’ and when is it ‘conditioning?’ Is it just the fact that there’s captivity involved; or is it asking it to placate a crowd for treats the problem? If it’s just captivity, what about the local zoo?–should it have so many creatures restrained in different sections, waiting their next meal to get closer to the glass and serve as entertainment?

    There are so many questions. While obviously a blurry video isn’t going to provide them, it gets people thinking. And I think Dawn would rather have a legacy of thought, than a legacy of assumed shame. She loved these animals, and dedicated so much time and effort to highlight them as the majestic and powerful creatures they are. I’m a hundred percent sure she believed in the rapport she built with these whales, and I don’t think that’s anything to scoff at, but rather something to learn from.

    Death is traumatic.
    In smaller ways, so is censorship.

  27. I totally agree with everything in this article, I think if their was anything that experts could see and have changed in the future regarding these issues should be told as this could stop further incidents, SeaWorld continued to put other members of staff on danger after this tragedy happened so they are saying to the world that everything was ok in y opinion, I believe that these amazing animals should never be in captivity, this as well as other incidents regarding Tilikum proves this

  28. Well, I watched the complete, tourist video, with Dawn’s, cueing, Tilikum, prior to her, going, to other side, of pool, and getting in, the water. I have dog and horse training, experience. I believe, Dawn cued, Tilikum, to do, what he did. I believe, she committed, suicide, by whale. I haven’t heard, this theory, before. Everyone said, she had, extreme, experience. She had the cueing ability, to do it, and in my opinion, did, based on what I saw.

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