The Full Tilileak Document Dump

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Earlier this summer, dolphin advocate Russ Rector managed to use FOIA to secure the release from the National Marine Fisheries Service of all documents in their files related to the purchase and import of Tilikum, Haida (and her calf), and Nootka from Sealand of the Pacific to SeaWorld.

I’ve previously posted some of the documents, and analyzed them over on The Dodo (here, here, and here).

Today, with Russ’ permission, I have uploaded the rest to Scribd, so the full set is available for anyone to read and analyze (interesting tidbit: the cost to SeaWorld for all the permit work was $200).

I am sure there is plenty of additional info in the documents that is worth noting, so please feel free to comment and share your thoughts on anything that catches your attention. Of note, there are full necropsies and related analysis of the deaths of two SeaWorld killer whales, Kahana and Kenau, as well as SeaWorld’s full Marine Mammal Inventory Report from 1991. (I have had the necropsies analyzed by Dr. Jon Zern, a veterinarian, and will post his analysis in a separate post tomorrow morning).

Since these documents are all finally available thanks to Russ and his persistence, I have asked him for his thoughts on their significance. Here’s what he has to say:

The documents I obtained from National Marine Fisheries  Service (NMFS) after many years of requests and searching are going to be made public here for the first time. These documents are a wealth of information concerning marine mammals in captivity. The one thing that stands out to me is how Sealand, Sea World and the Canadian government all seemed to work together to mislead the National Marine Fisheries Service concerning a medical emergency at Sealand and the orca Tillicum, that did not exist. Yes, the animals were in a very bad situation created by a bunch of dumb people more interested in money than how the animals were treated and cared for. But there was no true medical emergency.

Before Tillicum killed the female trainer (Keltie Byrne) at Sealand there was no medical emergency, and suddenly after he killed her there was this medical emergency that everybody in the captive industry suddenly became aware of. My question is: why did this medical emergency only surface after he killed her, not before?

That in itself is very suspicious and proves to me that this was all about getting Tillicum–a sorely needed breeder–to Sea World no matter what they had to do or say.  Veterinarians of captive facilities and those beholden to the dolphin captivity industry wrote letters saying if he wasn’t moved to Sea World immediately he was going to die. This was a set up. SeaWorld, Sealand and the Canadian government said exactly what they needed to say to mislead NMFS into issuing the permit for the emergency transport. This shows me the permitting process at NMFS is broken and archaic and does not truly protect marine mammals as the Marine Mammal Protection Act mandates. This shows me the Marine Mammal Protection Act at this point in time is the Marine Mammal Facility Protection Act. In the coming days I will be asking NMFS and The Marine Mammal Commission to ask Congress for a full program review of the permitting process for the import and export of marine mammals to and from the United States.

These documents were kept secret for too long. That’s a problem. When we get so far downstream from any incident it becomes old news and seems to be ignored. That seems to be why the captivity industry lobbies government agencies and other captive facilities to make sure this sort of information doesn’t come to light at the appropriate time. These documents have spent 22 years waiting to be discovered by the public. It’s a lot of reading so go through them and see what you can find. Please contact me if you need any assistance please contact me at captivitykills@Comcast.net.

Russ Rector

Tilikum At Sealand, Uncut

I’ve got a post over at The Dodo, featuring the newly released 8-minute video SeaWorld made at the end of 1991, showing Sealand and Tilikum’s circumstances there. The video was submitted to the National Marine Fisheries Service in support of SeaWorld’s application for an emergency permit to transport Tilikum to SeaWorld Florida. Boy, do I wish we had had this video when we were putting Blackfish together.

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This video, along with lots of other documents related to Tilikum’s purchase and transfer to SeaWorld, was prised loose from NMFS archives by dolphin advocate Russ Rector. I’ve looked at some of the interesting aspects of the documents here and here. But I haven’t begun to dig through every page of the FOIA dump Russ scored. So next week, with Russ’ permission, I’ll post the whole cache on Scribd so anyone can review them.

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.

The Tili Files: SeaWorld’s Permit Application For Tilikum Reveals Complacency

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After years of persistent FOIA appeals, dolphin advocate Russ Rector has managed the very worthwhile feat of getting NOAA to release more than 1000 pages of documents related to SeaWorld’s purchase of Tilikum, Haida, and Nootka from Sealand Of The Pacific. I am going through them and posting some of the details and insights that the documents contain.

My first post, about the back and forth SeaWorld and NOAA had over how SeaWorld planned to deal with the fact that the three killer whales it was purchasing from Sealand had killed a trainer, is up at The Dodo.

SeaWorld’s take on whether Tilikum, Haida and Nootka’s behavior was normal, and whether SeaWorld was set to handle the three whales in the aftermath of Keltie Byrne’s death, doesn’t look so great in light of what followed with Tilikum’s life at SeaWorld. NOAA, which gets credit for pressing SeaWorld on the question of how it might deal with killer whales that had killed, was clearly not that impressed by SeaWorld’s complacency. Nevertheless, they ended up granting the permit.

You can download the full set of permit-related documents here, and I’ve also embedded them below: