It’s always illuminating to hear directly from trainers who worked with killer whales at SeaWorld. Recently, Bridgette Pirtle a former trainer at SeaWorld Texas, decided to come forward and talk about her experience, and views on orca captivity (she also provided some great waterwork footage for Blackfish).
Voice Of The Orcas, a site put together by other former SeaWorld trainers speaking out about orca captivity, caught up with Bridgette for an interview. Here’s a sample, but, as always, I urge you to read the whole thing (and not just because she says nice things about my work):
Halyn was the first killer whale I saw being born. For the first few months of her life, I was there doing night-watches and around the clock bottle-feeds. During the first week of her life, we had lowered a back pool to about 4 ft of water and lined the walls with tubes from the water park to act as bumpers.I was snorkeling near one corner watching her swim when she just stopped and watched me too. I don’t think I could hold my breathe that long ever again, butjust having those couple of minutes of having this tiny whale make eye contact with you and stay there with you was unreal. I was the first trainer to give her the bottle and some of my first behaviors I trained with killer whales were teaching Halyn.In the last few weeks of her life, I tried to be there with her as much as possible. I was one of the trainers in the water holding her before she passed away.