Was Nakai Bitten? Analysis From Ingrid Visser

Ingrid Visser of the Orca Reasearch Trust, has spent twenty years studying and observing orcas in the wild.

Ingrid Visser

And she was responsible for taking this highly detailed picture of Nakai’s wound:

Nakai Wound

Perhaps the most important detail in this picture is the puncture marks which appear on the lower right margin of the wound, opening up the possibility that Nakai’s wound was caused by a bite from another orca, and not a collision with some part of the pool, as SeaWorld has suggested.

Now Visser has sent me a more detailed analysis of Nakai’s wound. Here it is:

The recent wound on the captive orca Nakai remains an enigma as to how it occurred.  When I first viewed (unreleased) photographs taken a week after the graphic injury, I was of the opinion that it was unlikely to have been inflicted by other orca, based on the fact that no orca teeth marks were clearly visible in the photos and the very ‘clean’ edges to the wound.

Regardless of the source of the wound, I didn’t buy the story from SeaWorld that Nakai had ‘come into contact with the pool’ (AP, Sept 28th 2012, press release), as to me such wording implied a light brush past, or perhaps at worst a bump into the side of the tank.  Clearly such a striking wound wasn’t from a light brush or even a ‘bump’.

Therefore, based on the photos available, I was of the opinion that this traumatic injury had been caused by severe contact with a sharp edge.  This took into account the very ‘clean’ edges of the wound and the apparent lack of any tooth ‘rake’ marks or puncture marks around its edge.  My opinion was confirmed by Dr. Nancy Anderson, a veterinarian with the University of California Davis Wildlife Center and a former veterinarian at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom (who until recently had their own orca and who still have dolphins in captivity), who said the injury did not have the characteristics of a wound caused by another orca.  She was quoted as saying:

“The edges of that wound are so smooth. If it were the teeth of an orca, there is no way it could look like that,” Anderson said. “It looks more consistent with the animal getting snagged on something and pulling away from it.”

SeaWorld San Diego has sharp edges along the top of the gates that separate the different tanks and if Nakai had lunged on top of one of these he may have been hurt.  However, as I had heard that there were rumours around that SeaWorld was using laser treatment – and such treatment could be used to debride (‘clean up dead tissue’) from the edge of a wound — I then thought that such treatment may have impacted on the visual nature of the edge of the wound.  By ‘tidying’ up the edge of the wound the overall impression anyone would get from a photograph could be misleading and the ‘clean’ edge of the wound a result of the sugery.

I therefore decided get on a plane to San Diego to go and see Nakai for myself and to also try and talk to the trainers and find out what had happened.  When I was in the park the trainers and security guards were not happy with me trying to photograph Nakai and had me stop photographing from certain points. They obscured other observation points by moving sun umbrellas and outdoor gas heaters in front of viewing spots and they moved Nakai to prevent me taking photos at all.  The security guards would not let me talk to the trainers either.

Despite these impediments, I did manage to obtain a few images.  One clearly shows a gash to the side of the wound (Nakai’s left side) and another shows four puncture marks, curved to the same shape and size as the wound.  All those marks are also visible in a photograph of the wound, taken a few days prior to my arrival, which has not yet been released to the public.

By assessing the four puncture marks in my photo and comparing their spacing to Nakai’s teeth (also visible in the photo) it doesn’t take a rocket-scientist to see that they are similar in their distribution.  Of course there is a chance that the four puncture marks were inflicted by something else, as I stated during an interview.  However, this is a generous assessment, as having seen many puncture wounds on orca prey items over my 20 year career of working with wild orca, I am confident that the four puncture marks are from orca teeth.

As for the gash on the side of the wound, that appears to be a tear in the flesh that may have occurred in a number of ways, but it would be speculation to determine how it happened without SeaWorld having the integrity to come forward with their video tapes and photographs.  As they have not done so, their evidence must be incriminating.

SeaWorld has changed their stance on the injury when they also stated that it occurred during ‘normal social behaviour’, which is consistent with the puncture marks being inflicted during a fight and the wound being a bite mark.

The question then remains: what was the primary cause of the injury?Regardless, the end result is a traumatic wound to an orca who was bred in captivity – showing that even those born into this world of entertainment, suffer.

Okay, I think we have officially analyzed this wound to the maximum extent possible, given the information on hand. I don’t think there is much to add unless new information comes to light.

15 thoughts on “Was Nakai Bitten? Analysis From Ingrid Visser”

  1. This gives me chills. It just blows me away that they are so dishonest. It’s sick! IF you are going to have these animals in captivity AND you have sooo many people against you, why would you continue to lie. I get the thought process behind it but the truth always comes to light. Now they look like even bigger asses if that is even possible.

  2. I’m in my mid twenties. I’ve been an orca fan since free willy when I was a child but not until these recent foots of Nakai did I have ANY idea whatsoever of the conditions, treatment and effect these marineparks have on captive orcas. I even let myself visit marineland in antibes several years ago, completely unaware of the magnitude of damage these parks are causing, I am angry I spent even one euro cent supporting this vile industry. I remember being inexplicably sad and crying towards the end of the show but couldnt explain to myself why.

    My question is HOW is it that these parks are still allowed to continue? All the information is here and on orcaproject wordpress, it is so easy to connect the dots! After 6 trainer deaths, countless trainer attacks, orca suicides (hugo at miami) and continued alarming premature death rates amongst orcas, WHY and HOW is there not more general knowledge about these facts? In the same way there is awareness about gorillas, pandas, PETA and fur… How have we not been able to oveturn the decision of even ONE MAN at miami seaquarium to free and retire Lolita from her awful life at that fishbowl? I realise it is corporations not government who make all major decisions and seaworld is a huge corporation but surely we can free AT LEAST Lolita from that man!? Is no one making a documentary about orcas in captivity like the cove did? Where is louis psihoyos and werner herzog!

    It is so clear these whales are sensitive, intelligent and clearly in suffering. I was shocked to see a falsekiller whale in japan on youtube literally JUMP OUT of his pool while the other whales stayed glued to the window near him watching! I’m sure our kids and future generations will gawk and wonder how and why we let this continue for as long as it did. I just wish there was something more I could do than write an email. Like Ric O’Barry, there must be a more proactive way to help.

  3. Well… previously I had my dream to visit the Orlando to see the Shamu show. but not anymore….especially I know the impact they caused to these gentle orcas. Watched the untold story of keiko and was so determined to try to help these killer whales. Im so angry and sad that there’re still people hunting Orcas and Dolphins and also for captivity….

  4. Tim, thank you for your ongoing commitment to this topic of marine zoos (in SeaWorld’s case, circuses) and their consequences. Dr Visser’s photographic forensic evidence is convincing. Between the 4 puncture wounds, the arc pattern, the distribution, and the scalloped area of missing flesh, it’s hard to attribute this to anything but a bite. Additionally, I heard a rumor that you’ve been approached by a former SeaWorld senior orca trainer wishing to spill the beans and I hope it is true. Is there a way to get alerts on your posts? If rumor is true would this be the spot to look for future stories? Or Tumblr?

  5. I am absolutely sickened by the treatment of marine mammals at SeaWorld. They have no rights, must work for food and live in unnatural conditions. This means they are slaves. How can any ‘agency’ allow this to continue? Where is OSHA for the whales? If you pay money to visit SeaWorld you are contributing to slavery and captivity of these sentient beings, who were stolen from their families in the wild. It is a crime against nature.

  6. Until recently, Seaworld et al have been quite successful in pulling the wool over the public’s eyes regarding the conditions of cetacean in their circuses, but that is changing now, and changing fast, thanks to vocal marine mammal advocates like Tim Zimmerman, Ingrid Visser, Peta, the four ex-trainers @voice_ot_orcas and thankfully many other concerned people and organizations who are willing to dedicate their time and passion to re-educating the public with the truth of animals’ lives in captivity. Thank you,Tim Zimmerman for your persistent investigative journalism that never fails to enlighten and energize the movement devoted to reveal what’s really going on with dolphins and killer whales in marine parks. CaptivityKILLS!

  7. It is time to put Sea World out of the Orca show business. We kicked them out of Washington state in 1976 for decimating our resident orca ppulation for their shows. It took a federal court action to successfully stop them, and end their business here.

  8. Hey There,

    Just wondering if there are any updates on how Nakai is doing now? Healing well?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: