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As an aspiring writer, I blog about whatever happens to move me at the moment -- though some posts contain serious content, my big-picture goal is to bring a little humor into an often humorless world! Welcome, y'all, and make yourself at home! Please make sure you update your bookmarks!

When you are offended at any man's fault, turn to yourself and study your own failings. Then you will forget your anger...Epictetus

Monday, March 1, 2010

Whale of a Tale

The death of trainer Dawn Brancheau at SeaWorld was horrific. It raises the age-old question of whether wild animals should be kept in confinement in marine parks, zoos or circuses.

I'm split on it -- on one hand, no, they probably shouldn't but, on the other hand, an awful lot of study and research goes on at many of these parks -- SeaWorld, in particular -- studies which could not be conducted out in the wild. I suppose it comes down to this question: do the needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many? Well, I guess that depends on whether the ACLU gets involved...

But I digress...

I don't want to make light of this tragedy. I'm not sure if anybody will ever really know why it happened. Did the whale grab her ponytail in playfulness, then the hair got caught while the whale thrashed around to free her? Was it just some other kind of playfulness gone wrong? Or was it a full-fledged attack? This whale had been involved in two other deaths -- a huge warning sign or just coincidence? I guess these kinds of questions and others are being asked in all marine parks. I think we can all probably agree that this trainer died doing something she loved.

I've been to SeaWorld in Orlando several times -- not sure how long Tilikum has been there but we may have seen him -- and it's possible I may even have a photo of him but I'd be hard-pressed to tell one whale from another. I do have a whale of a story I can share.

Sometime around 1989, on a visit to SeaWorld, Mark had gone to the restroom so I sat on one of the bleachers, right in front of the orca performance area, to wait for him. At the time, Wesley was about 2 years old and Shannon about 4 (this was pre-Carrie). At that time, after the Shamu show, the stadium was not cordoned off -- visitors could walk directly through the stadium and watch the whales in-between shows. In later years, when there was not a show going on, the stadium was off-limits -- though there was a tank around the other side where you could still watch the whales.

With Shannon beside me and Wesley in my lap, we were sitting only a few feet from the aquarium -- separated only by the walkway. I don't remember how many whales were in there that day but I do know this -- a mother, with her offspring, stopped right in front of us, waiting for her baby to come close to the plexiglass. Maybe I was one-with-the-orca that day but I knew exactly what she was doing -- she was telling me that she saw my babies and here was hers. In our own way, we acknowledged each other and the pair swam on. There is not a soul in this world that can tell me this is not what was happening -- so don't even try!

Now, I admit that I can swear like a sailor under the right conditions but the only time I remembering cursing out loud, in public, also happened at SeaWorld (possibly during this same visit). In the sea lion area, you could buy fish to feed them -- you could almost drop a fish directly into the sea lion's mouth -- nowadays you have to throw the fish. Sea Lions may be adorable but they also are big and have very large teeth. All I remember is that Shannon was leaning over to give one a fish and the dang thing jumped up to get it. I'm talking thisclose to my child's hand. And, yes, I said an expletive. Very loudly. And I dare anyone to blame me for it.

I'd go back to SeaWorld. I can't be the judge or jury about what should be done about that particular whale or any others in captivity. It's very sad when something like this happens and it serves to remind us that these creatures, no matter how long they've been around humans, are still wild at heart.

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  1. I think we are very unaware of what goes on in their brain while in capitivity. "The Boss" order a "sleeper" movie from Netflix..."The Cove",, an eye opener..youtube trailer

  2. Such a tragedy! I feel so terrible for everyone -- the trainer, her family, the people that witnessed it, and that poor whale. It's a no-win, all around!

  3. That is an eye-opener. I've always loved dolphins, too.