Blackfish Archives: Birth And Death At Dolphins Plus

Over the past decade I have accumulated a lot of documentation related to marine mammal captivity. So I am going to start publishing items of interest.

This video comes from Russ Rector, who died in 2018 and was a colorful, relentless and vocal critic of dolphinariums. One of his key strategies was simply to send people out to film at various facilities, because he knew that the realities of captivity could not be hidden from view, and when things happened he wanted it on video.

He sent me this edit of a longer video a few years ago. It shows the birth of a calf at Dolphins Plus in the Florida Keys, and how a moment of creation turns into a moment of tragedy.

Russ had no love for Dolphins Plus, and also in 1993 secured from former employee David Valdez this sworn testimony about practices and incidents at Dolphin Plus.

TiliLeaks: Tilikum’s Traumatic Final Weeks At Sealand

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I’ve got a new post up at The Dodo, examining the set of documents from activist Russ Rector’s FOIA haul that relate to SeaWorld’s application to move Tilikum from Sealand to SeaWorld in January 1992 on an emergency basis. The documents (and some additional commentary I solicited from Steve Huxter, who managed SeaWorld’s killer whales at the time) add many troubling details to what we know about Tilikum’s sad experience at Sealand–most notably that before he was shipped to SeaWorld he was confined to Sealand’s tiny module for 17 days, with a noticeable impact on his health and mental attitude.

From the post, here is how Steve Huxter described what he observed:

In all his years at Sealand, I had never seen [Tilikum] so immobile in the module; he was listless at the surface all of the time. He floated for hours on the surface at the gate and facing the pool that held Haida, her calf, and Nootka. He seldom moved around and primarily only when he was offered food. For the first few days he ate well but his appetite seemed to fade and  there were times when we would give him food and he would simply let it slide out of his mouth and let it sink to the bottom of the module pool.

Read the full Dodo post here. I’ve embedded the full set of documents below, or you can read them here. They are worth reviewing because they contain lots of additional information about SeaWorld, Sealand and Tilikum.