Nakai Photos and Backstory

Over the weekend I learned a little bit more about the incident that led to Nakai’s injury, and Ingrid Visser of the Orca Research Trust visited SeaWorld in San Diego and took some more pictures of Nakai’s injury. Here is the most detailed photo she took (more photos after the jump):

(c) Ingrid Visser

Regarding the question of whether the injury might come from a bite from another orca, Visser writes: “Of note is that in [this photo], at the bottom right of the wound, near the trainers shoe in the photo, there are four puncture marks – and the spacing matches that for orca teeth – as you can see from Nakai’s teeth in this same photo.”

And here is some additional detail on what happened that night when Nakai was injured. As a number of people have noted, the injury occurred after Sea World San Diego closed to the general public for the evening. Sometimes SeaWorld puts on special shows for corporate groups, and the evening show on the 29th (oope, typo) 20th was such a show.

During the show Nakai, Keet and Ike were all at stage when all three killer whales suddenly took off without warning and and started fighting with one another. SeaWorld’s review of the tapes could not identify an instigator or an aggressor. As I wrote last week, Nakai split into the back pool. Ike and Keet, however, returned to the stage and control, so the trainers continued the show. When trainers finally called Nakai over later that evening for the final feeding and saw that he was injured they were shocked be the severity of the wound. In fact, it is about as bad a wound as most trainers have ever seen. In response, SeaWorld San Diego will henceforth adopt the practice of immediately checking any killer whales involved in similar, high-intensity, melees to try and make sure that injuries are identified right away.

(c) Ingrid Visser

Apart from the death of Kandu V at SeaWorld San Diego in 1989, the only injury many trainers can remember that was even close in severity to Nakai’s was a 1990s injury to Splash, who lost part of his jaw when he was thrown by Takara against a gate while they were messing around. The gate had a chain and latching hook that was normally covered by a safety box. But, I am told, the box cover had not been had not been put in place over the hook and the hook ripped part of Splash’s jaw away. SeaWorld staff tried to staple the severed piece back to Splash’s jaw, but, partly due to the constant water pressure on the jaw, it never healed  properly leaving Splash with a disfigured, though still functioning, jaw.

Splash’s injury was perhaps over a wider area of the jaw, but Nakai’s wound is apparently much deeper.

(c) Ingrid Visser

Another aspect of the incident that has been puzzling is Keet’s involvement. Keet is a sub-dominant male who was moved to SeaWorld San Diego from Texas earlier this year, in hopes of finding a better social environment for him. Normally, Keet avoids conflict, so it was strange that he was in the middle of the action along with Nakai and Ike (who also moved to SeaWorld San Diego in the past year). However, there is a backstory to Keet’s relationship with Nakai that may or may not be relevant. Keet is well-trained in the semen donation procedure for SeaWorld’s Artificial Insemination (AI) program, and is a regular and prolific donor. Earlier this year, Keet was on his back during an AI session to extract semen. Nakai was also in the pool, and suddenly split from his trainer. He swam over to Keet and bit him hard on his erect penis. The bite caused a lengthy period of extensive bleeding, and Nakai is no longer allowed to be in the pool with Keet during AI sessions.

It’s impossible to say how an incident like that might connect to the incident in which Nakai was injured. But it is a reminder of how complex the relationship between killer whales at marine parks is, and how there are daily interactions that affect the social structure and stability. If you throw in the fact that there are now nine killer whales at SeaWorld San Diego (which is rare), with three having arrived in the past year and a baby from Kasatka on the way, you have a situation in which it must be very difficult for trainers to stay completely on top of all the interactions and incidents that daily affect the relationships between the killer whales.

Here are a few more pictures of Nakai:

(c) Ingrid Visser
(c) Ingrid Visser
(c) Ingrid Visser

50 thoughts on “Nakai Photos and Backstory”

  1. so if this is anther orca bite, will they ever admit it? and IF they did try to cover up isn’t this punishable by the USA government???? i mean this is not the way to keep animals

  2. Well it would be kinda funny if it was Karma on Keets behalf, just cause orcas are very human in ways and would make sense, but Im with Deborah, I don’t think this is an orca bite, I think it was caused by the tank or parts of the tank….until SeaWorld decides to release a statement, which with all this pressure Im sure they will, we wont ever know what happened.

  3. Good GOD almighty..Can’t the ASPCA do something? anything? this should not be happening. It’s just goes beyond my comprehension. I now tell everyone I know about captive whales and am proud to say no one I know goes there anymore

  4. Kotar and Kanduke fought multiple times. One led to a severe bite on Kanduke’s penis that canceled shows and resulted in a scar. Corky II and Kandu V had severe attacks leading up to the ultimately fatal one. On tumblr, there are several people who have recorded stills of the current fights, the latest one happening September 30, 2012. I am surprised that SeaWorld hasn’t shut down the Shamucam permanently. There are big problems with the captives, but it seems the business’s response is the same as usual. Even if he dies, I doubt SeaWorld will change it habits. They are ignoring the OSHA verdict, and have had serious fights break out before. But they keep doing the same things, over and over again.
    Thank you for keeping up on this!

    I apologize if this posts twice, was having issues with WordPress.

  5. Regardless it’s from another orca or not, these creatures do not belong to captivity. SeaWorld knows that; but continues because of greed; not ignorance. Stop buying tickets.

  6. It doesn’t matter what caused the injury – these mammals should not be held in tanks like these, for people’s amusement, with no way to escape should a “fight” break out. Sea World, Marineland in Canada (particularly bad – their death rates are astronomical – and all other “abusement” parks should be shut down, or only have rides. End of story. That way no one gets hurt, human or animal.

    1. Erin, i could NOT agree with you more!! It’s all about the money, not the animals! breaks my heart.

      1. I agree too…I have not been to any of the Sea worlds, circuses or any festival where animals are being used/abused for our so called entertainment. They belong free in the wild. How anyone can enjoy seeing them in such tiny confinement is just adding to their abuse.

  7. Am I the only person who can see the brooken off Orca tooth lodged in flesh of the chin?

  8. Just another reason why they should not be in captivity. It is very difficult to avoid your attacker in a confined space.

  9. This injury is an injury to all animals in captivity! Why does not Sea World accept responsibility for this horrific “accident?” It breaks my heart to see this, and yet the Orca’s keepers are HUMAN???


  11. I think that SeaWorld to show of the Killer Whale, close down. They need to have send to wild life on their own and be happy. I noticed that killer whale has been injured and suffer as slave. Another mammal display for the kids to see and learning. Not miracle display of killer whale is. Ridiculous. PETA will work on it. Please close down for one showing. Not care about rather money from patrons. Most important let Killer Whale go!!!!!

  12. Out of curiosity did the writer of this article or the person who took the pictures actually see the show…if not then this claim that it was an attack from another orca whale is basically a bad version of a children’s game called telephone…or in the legal world it is hearsay…unless someone actually was there and saw the three whales in a fight then all we can do is speculate as to what happens. for all we know sea world is telling the truth.

    1. The point of the article is to present new (high resolution photo) forensic evidence suggesting that there are teeth marks in Nakai’s wound. This represents new information. This evidence was collected and interpreted by one of the world’s leading killer whale experts, and the curved pattern of teeth marks is clearly visible. SeaWorld has a history of obfuscation, and bending facts to suit its needs, for example claiming that teeth flushing is superior dental care. Why in the world would you default to SeaWorld’s explanation when the evidence is in front of your eyes?

      1. I am neither for or against Seaworld…I just find your logic rather flawed. You bring up this evidence as clear and convincing evidence that some version of events that you heard from someone else is correct. Try bringing that up in court and see how fast you are laughed at. Unless you actually saw it happen you do not know what happened. High resolution pictures or not, you can spin a story all you want. You as a journalist should know that a picture is worth a 1000 words. However, a picture taken several days removed from the scene doesn’t help with your story. Now if you have a picture from a person that was personally there that saw it happen then you have more credibility. Right now your evidence and your story doesn’t even meet a preponderance of the evidence. I will admit it does bring on reasonable suspicion, but is not enough to convince me your version of the story is true.

        Second, you bring up that this evidence was interpreted by a leading killer whale expert. I ask you did this expert get within 5 feet of the whale? Did this expert touch the whale? Did this expert get to physically inspect the wound? I am pretty sure from the way this expert puts it on your blog they did not get anywhere near the whale, instead they got pictures. Trying bringing that to a court as well. Expert or no expert, without a physical examination you wont know what happened. A picture can speak a 1000 words. The expert can say whatever they feel like because experts are biased one way or another towards one point of view or another. I am 100% sure I can find an expert that will say whatever I want and totally opposite to your expert.

        All you have is speculation. Post a video of the attack if you have one.

      2. Since this idea that if you don’t see it yourself, you can’t report it seems to be coming up in response to my reporting on Nakai’s injury, I think I should respond. Journalism and reporting is about seeking the truth and the facts. Sometimes you are there as an eyewitness and can report directly on what you have seen. More often, since you can’t be everywhere, you rely on sources who provide information on what happened. Sometimes those sources were eyewitnesses, sometimes they are in a position to know what happened even if they weren’t right there. The challenge for the journalist is to make sure that the information provided by sources is correct and reliable. In the case of Nakai, I was not there at the show. Nor was SeaWorld providing anyone direct access to Nakai. So I did my reporting and published information I was confident was correct. Following my reporting, SeaWorld for the first time admitted that Nakai had indeed been injured, and then subsequently also conceded that the injury–per my reporting–had occurred as a result of interaction with other whales. So my reporting held up even though I wasn’t right there. The newspapers would be pretty blank if your standard that a reporter has to actually witness an event to report it were accepted.

        One question which I agree is outstanding is HOW Nakai was injured. I am agnostic on whether it was a bite or a collision with some part of the pool during the altercation with Ike and Keet. I don’t have conclusive evidence one way or the other, and haven’t said that I do, and SeaWorld is not providing any details of the altercation (though I am told that they don’t really know for sure how the injury occurred either). But that doesn’t make it wrong to present a photo taken by Ingrid Visser, along with her opinion. No, she wasn’t six feet away from Nakai (SeaWorld is not exactly eager to let anyone in close to examine Nakai), but the photo is pretty clear. And her opinion is something I think readers should consider as they think about HOW that injury might have occurred. And as you will see a little later, I have a contrary opinion on whether Nakai’s injury might be a bite which I am planning to publish.

        Hope that helps you understand what journalism and reporting is all about.

      3. You just need to get off your high horse dw… The man is doing his job and his is reporting what he see’s and thinks… Don’t read his article if you don’t like it or disagree with it… No one knows what really happened but for the people that were there… The main point is the killer whales should not be in captivity and San Diego seaworld should not keep bringing in more and more killer whales..

  13. I hate all kind of business that use (“sacrifice”) animals to make money. That should never be permitted to keep huge wild animals like that confined in a tank. So Unatural, so unfair!!
    I never liked Sea World and I will never give my business to them.
    Sea World is nothing more than ANIMAL CRUELTY.

  14. I think it is sad that they are even keep them in a small tank .. Why do they have so many killer whales .. I highly doubt there facility has expanded… Very sad somethings should just not be contained – it is very sad…

    1. I totally agree with you, it’s very sad. These animals aren’t happy I went to Sea World about a year ago and seeing it as an adult from when I was a kid its very different, the whales just dont see happy at all. I don’t ever plan to go back

      1. Paul – I totally agree with you on that one.. A way bigger picture when you see it as an adult from a child’s perspective. Last couple of times I went the shows did not start on time because the whales were not responding to them.. Obviously means something – they are confined in a tiny fish bowl . I wouldn’t be happy either.. I know it is Sea World’s staple and main push but it is in my opinion animal cruelty.

  15. I wonder what current Sea World trainers thought when they saw this? It seems many choose to stay quiet and not ask questions in order to avoid being labeled a troublemaker. I’m sure quite a few are struggling with what they heard during OSHA hearings, knowing their employer was simultaneously investing millions on fast rising floors, spare air cans, etc. ~ all in an effort to get them back into that water. Now this terrible injury to one of the whales.
    Not long ago trainers knew only what Sea World chose to tell them. Today, a simple search online provides a wealth of information that seems to be in contrast to SW’s talking points. I don’t envy the difficult position many trainers might be finding themselves in.

  16. If all the trainers at Sea World joined hands together, for the welfare of the animals and refused to work or quit Sea World, I am sure the CEO would take notice. Few have quit in the past but not unanimously. Something has to happen, even something like what happened in 2010 to Dawn, for the management to rethink what they are doing to these animals. They are too busy lining their pockets, making millions to care about, at least, releasing the oldest like Lolita to an ocean sanctuary. Don’t these animals, who have sacrificed their freedom since childhood, deserve little normal life, at least in their old age? Even if they did not have Shamu show, SW can still make money. They do have rides and other attractions. They can have a 3 D show about Orcas in the wild instead of captive Orca doing silly tricks. That would be more educational and would still draw same number of crowd and dollars!!

  17. I think all of you are full of s#$%! Its wonderful that we can take our kids to sea world, zoo’s and other places to see these wonderful whales,fish, shark, animals,etc……. Ya’ll are so stupid for that petition and others! There is nothing wrong at all with these whales being at SEA WORLD so get over yourselves because no matter how hard you try YOU WILL NEVER WIN at getting these whales released because of all your whining like immature IDIOTS!!!

    1. You have no idea what you are talking about, you are so ignorant. watch the movie the red cove see how places like Sea World get their whales and dolphins its disgusting,

    2. Sea World Rocks —- You are the stupid ignorant one.. You are the perfect example for a stupid person… Wow amazing to see how people are so stupid and don’t care… Lets see you get put in a tiny fish bowl and have to preform 5 times a day…. Please go jump off a cliff….

  18. I’m a little confused. Was either person (Zimmermann or Visser) present during the injury? Where are these Quotes coming from. This is horrible jounalism. Whether article, blog or editorial you should have the decency to source your quotes, state whether they are fact or opinion and not report opinions as facts. You’ve lost a reader. Your no better than a tabloid.

    1. Please see my earlier comment on this topic. It’s called having sources who know what is happening, and are willing to share the information. Also called reporting or journalism. And since SeaWorld has confirmed that Nakai was injured, confirmed that he was injured in a night-time show, and confirmed that he was injured during “social interaction” with other whales, they have confirmed every detail of the reporting. So I’m not sure what the basis for your skepticism is. This idea that no one can report on anything unless they are there is simply silly.

      1. Does it really matter in the end how the whale got injured? Whether the injury is a result of bite or otherwise – it is the captivity in a small concrete tank as opposed to roaming in wide oceans… is the loneliness of being unable to be in a pod of your choice and your family….The series of injuries to the trainers or the Orcas that has been happening at Sea World should be a wake up call for them to terminate the Cetacean shows. May be Sea World needs another human tragedy before they take any strong action! It is a sad reality. Thanks for reporting.

  19. This is terrible, these poor animals are unhappy and do not belong in captivity. Watch the Red Cove, find out how these animals end up at places like Sea World! It’s the most disturbing movie I’ve ever seen. You can clearly see the HUGE wound on this amazing mammal is from another whale, anyone who says it’s not is sadly mistaken, So sad and just disgusting how these animals are treated..

    1. It is really sad… I will watch the red cove – prob will have some tears.. Breaks my heart to see animals miss treated – they are like us and have a purpose on this earth…

      1. Amber, I’m, sorry its called The Cove not the red cove my mistake. but def watch it, it will def put a new perspetive on these animals

    2. Thanks Paul . .. I watched just the trailer of it – and think it is just horrifying… How can people do this to animals… It is just down right disgusting I hope that movie does shut them down.. I am so grateful for everyone that put there blood sweat and tears into making that movie.. I am really speechless — what is this world coming too…. And I really hope that —- SeaWorld Rocks Prick watches that movie….

      1. I really hope everyone watches that movie, It really moved me to tears to see all those animals violently murdered. I’m glad not everyone is as ignorant as Sea World Rocks

      2. Folks, let’s please tone down the language and ad hominem attacks. These comments are great when people add thoughtful opinions and information. But it’s a waste of everyone’s time when the comments descend into simple name-calling. Carry on….

      3. Ric O’Barry, of ‘The Cove’ is in Niagara Falls, Canada this weekend to assist with a protest regarding Marineland of Canada. Just Google ‘Toronto Star Marineland’ and you’ll see why. O’Barry is quoted as saying it’s the worst in North America, if not the world.
        Support from influential people like him will help us reach our governments, and constant media pressure with graphic images like these will hopefully give some people a reality check. These animals belong in the WILD – there is no educational value whatsoever to these parks, despite that being their argument.
        The Blue Planet or Planet Earth or Frozen Planet series’ would be amazing to see in iMax at one of these parks – I would much rather pay for that than support the mistreatment of some of the world’s most astounding creatures. Our countries have coasts and seaways – I can see belugas and humpbacks in their natural environment. To me that is far more special, educational, and memorable, than seeing them perform unnatural circus tricks (trainers are “brainwashed” to use the term ‘behaviour’ instead of ‘trick’ – ugh) in what amounts to little more than a fish bowl.
        Anyone close to Niagara Falls this Sunday (October 7) is more than welcome to join the demonstration – the goal is to set an example for all sea “parks” – people, en masse, can be capable of great selflessness and compassion. There are previous demo vids on YouTube, and if you can’t make it this weekend, I’m sure there will be plenty more. O’Barry’s speech is sure to be a good one.
        Freedom for all marine mammals!

  20. I think Zimmermann wrote a great piece, although I’m disturbed of the contents of this article as I’m an avid animal lover. I would hope that those in a position to do so would look further into this matter for the safety of these whales.

  21. another testiment why WILD creatures of any species SHOULD NOT BE IN CAPTIVITY – Perioxd

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