A few weeks ago I dug into the details of a minor incident in which Taku gave former SeaWorld Florida trainer Jeff Ventre an unscheduled bump.
There were two aspects I have been meaning to follow up on, which further illustrate the complexities and subtleties of killer whale entertainment.
As I noted in the previous post, Taku’s little stunt was written off as “baby behavior.” Calves are naturally immature, inexperienced, and can be unpredictable. According to Carol Ray, another former SeaWorld Florida trainer from that era, Katerina and Taima were also well known for that sort of acting up as calves. Former SeaWorld Florida trainer Samantha Berg adds: “Taima had her way with Teri Corbett’s ponytail on more than one occasion, until management decided that women working Taima in the water had to wear their hair in a bun. But I don’t know how long that rule lasted.”
So when calves went off script it was tolerated–up to a point.
But the fact that calves are unpredictable and sometimes do not do what they are supposed to do created an interesting dilemma for SeaWorld regarding waterwork. On the one hand, a number of SeaWorld killer whale mothers have been sensitive to whether their caves were with them in the pool. The most notorious is Kasatka at SeaWorld California, whose profile notes that aggression was sometimes linked to “when she was separated from her calf and her calf was in distress.” Kasatka’s profile includes a pretty long rap sheet of incidents, a number of which were attributed to a calf being in another pool and/or vocalizing.
Of course, the most dramatic incident was when she repeatedly dragged Ken Peters to the bottom of the pool in 2006, a scene which features in Blackfish.
So, for whales like Kasatka who liked to have their calves around, it could be an important safety measure to have a calf in the show pool if the Continue reading “Waterwork, Calves, And Cadillac Killer Whales”