Tag Archives: Dawn Brancheau

Death at SeaWorld Panel Discussion Coming to Emory Bookstore

Cetacean lovers in the Southeast: mark your calendars!

Death at SeaWorld

Death at SeaWorld, by David Kirby, released July 17, 2012

On September 17, 2012, David Kirby, New York Times best-selling author and author of Death at SeaWorld, Dr. Naomi Rose, and Dr. Lori Marino will participate in a panel discussion, followed by book-signing.  Ask me if I’m excited.

While I have not seen a specific title of the discussion, it is a safe bet that it will address the safety of humans in close proximity to captive orcas, whether orcas and other cetaceans should be confined in captivity, whether SeaWorld has the best interest of either the human trainers or the orca “trainees” in mind as it runs its marine park enterprise, other issues brought out at trial in the OSHA v. SeaWorld that we may not have heard, and how science could and should inform sound U.S. policy on cetacean captivity, especially now.

All three speakers are experts in cetacean captivity, but bring their own perspective:

David Kirby is the latest to join the cetacean expert ranks, having earned his cetacean stripes while researching and writing Death at SeaWorld.  He brought his over 20 years as an investigative reporter to bear in crafting an engaging tale of the captive orca through the eyes of both orca experts and former orca trainers.

Dr. Naomi Rose, by being highlighted in Kirby’s book, has revealed more of her personal story and how she came to know the orca, than she  may have imagined.  But it is this story of a woman’s personal journey of coming to know the orca – from marine biology graduate student to researcher in orca’s behavior and its community structure to Senior Scientist at Humane Society International – that provides access to the orca in a way that few experience, but many, young and old, will recognize.  And to which the budding marine biologist will aspire.

Dr. Lori Marino, a behavioral psychologist, conducted the research that resulted in the first published findings regarding mirror recognition in bottlenose dolphins, findings that revealed that dolphins are self-aware, sentient beings.  Dr. Marino has not only published her findings on dolphin behavior and spoken on how dolphins are ill-suited to captivity, she has provided her expert opinion in testimony to Congress.  Atlanta is fortunate to have her here as a Senior Lecturer at Emory University.

Perhaps all three will have stories to tell of wild orca songs or news from the Nonhuman Rights Project, having just returned from Superpod II, a gathering of orca experts, which mirrors the gathering of orcas each Summer in a Superpod off the coast of San Juan Island, Washington.

While certainly some of the discussion will surround the issues of safety of the trainers in light of the OSHA judgment that SeaWorld must cease waterwork  (where the humans are in the water with the orcas) until it can better safeguard the lives of the trainers AND SeaWorld’s recent plans to return to waterwork, this little blogger is looking forward to Atlanta’s having more cetacean expertise in its city limits than ever before.  Notwithstanding that the world’s largest dolphin, whale and fish bowl is located right here.

It is such a tremendous honor to have these three experts here at the same time,  in the same room, and in the same city where the the world’s largest aquarium wants to erode cetacean protection from being wild-caught and watched in U.S. whale shows.

Panel Discussion: David Kirby, Dr. Naomi Rose and Dr. Lori Marino:

  • September 17, 2012; 6:00 p.m.
  • Barnes & Noble at Emory Bookstore
  • 1390 Oxford Road
  • Atlanta, GA  30322

It should be a fascinating evening, and one that this blogger will never forget.  And will expect to Tweet about all night long.  On the 17th. Well, and maybe the 16th.  Or the 15th, too.  Ah, hell.  This is the biggest cetacean GOOD news that I’ve heard in a long time.  I hope you don’t mind if I bask in it just a while.  Yes, I’m excited.

Why Orcas Should not be in Captivity

The magnificent Orca

Naomi Rose, PhD, Senior Scientist for the Humane Society International and the Humane Society of the United States, has published a white paper which summarizes certain facts relevant to the condition of orcas in captivity versus those who live a natural life in the wild. Dr. Rose points to the following reasons why these marvelous creatures should not be captured or bred and held in captivity:

  • Longevity: Orcas in the wild have a significantly shorter lifespan in captivity than in the wild. Wild males orcas have a maximum life expectancy of 60-70 years; females 80-90 years – comparable to a human life span. No captive male orca has ever lived past 35. Ever. Only two captive female orcas have lived past 40.
  • Causes of death: The most common cause of death in orcas pneumonia, septicemia and other infections. It appears that the ability of veterinary care for captive orcas is too unsophisticated to detect health issues on a time-frame that can intercede and save the individual. A complicating factor in orca health appears to be immunosuppression, which in humans, is known to be greatly exacerbated by depression and stress, both of which are common in the captive orca population.
  • Dental health: Well-documented and common teeth issues in captive orcas which do not appear to the same degree in their wild counterparts. The poor dental health is in part due to the orcas gnawing on metal bars and concrete walls, which breaks the teeth. These broken teeth, most often drilled out as a palliative measure, serve as a direct conduit for infection.
  • Aberrant Behavior: Aggression toward other orcas in the wild is undocumented, while it is not uncommon in captivity. So, too, is mother orca rejection of offspring: uncommon in the wild; common in captivity.
  • Harm to humans: Pay attention to the current OSHA hearing regarding the SeaWorld’s orca program and specifically whether SeaWorld may have knowingly exposed its trainers and other employees to dangerous and life-threatening conditions including Dawn Brancheau. Four humans have been killed by orcas in captivity, while there is no documented case of a wild orca killing a single human.

They do not belong in captivity. They do not thrive in captivity.

Please don’t go to the orca, or dolphin, show. For more information, please watch A Fall From Freedom, a full-length documentary currently streaming over the internet.