Okay, here’s what I have been told about Nakai’s injury at SeaWorld California.
First: it is a serious injury, with a dinner plate-sized chunk of his lower mandible sheared off, exposing underlying tissues, and bone. The most serious concern, I think, is the possibility of a bad, possibly even life-threatening, infection.
Second: It happened last week during a night show, seemingly during a major altercation involving Nakai, Keet, and Ike. It’s not clear if there was an aggressor or instigator, or if they all suddenly went after each other. In response to the altercation, Nakai split to the back pool. The onstage trainers, not realizing how badly injured he was, continued the show with the other whales. It was only when they called Nakai over later that night that they realized he was seriously hurt.
Third: SW is not sure how the injury happened. Right now they believe it was due to blunt force trauma, but I’m not sure how that squares with the description of the injury in which a sizable piece of flesh on Nakai’s lower jaw was, in essence, sliced off. The piece was big enough and intact enough for SeaWorld to retrieve it from the bottom of the pool.
After Ike was brought into SeaWorld California from Marineland in Ontario, many people felt–particularly with Kasatka due to produce a calf–that SeaWorld would be wise to move Nakai elsewhere. Obviously, in retrospect that looks like it would have been a smart move. But the fact is, controlling the social aggression between the killer whales in SeaWorld’s pools appears to be a very delicate and difficult challenge no matter what SeaWorld facility you are talking about, and what whales you are trying to mix together (see here, and here).
Nakai’s injury is just the latest reminder of that difficult fact.
If I get more details I will post them over on my Facebook page.