An expert pays a visit to see Tilikum
The Big Business of Dolphins
Part 2 of “Dolphins & Us“
The Business of Dolphins
The Movie that Launched a Revolution
The Real Story: Freeing Keiko
Ric O’Barry: From Flipper to The Cove
Tilikum: The Slave Who Fought Back
Life and Death at SeaWorld
The Drive Hunts
Interviews & Reports
“Don’t Buy a Ticket!”
More about Ric O’Barry
The “Spartacus” of Whales
My Visit to SeaWorld
A Whale of a Business
See also Part One: The Smartest of Us All?
One of the leaders of the movement to curb the activities of the dolphin entertainment business is Naomi Rose, Senior Scientist for Humane Society International. Shortly after the killing of Dawn Brancheau, Naomi photo right) recently paid a visit to SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida, to see how Tilikum and the other animals were doing. Here’s her full report.
The first thing Naomi notes is that “The dolphin nursery pool is right next to a new roller coaster. This is where they keep their most vulnerable dolphin inhabitants: right next to a screaming roller coaster.”
The dolphin show itself is “a cross between a Las Vegas Cirque du Soleil extravaganza, a Disney on Ice performance, and a dolphin show.” Naomi comments that in order to have a license, SeaWorld must demonstrate that it has educational value. But the only educational element in the first dolphin show she attends is an almost inaudible recording of children saying things like, “Hi, I’m Suzie. I’m 10 years old. Did you know that SeaWorld’s dolphins can weigh up to 500 pounds? That’s more than two professional football players!”
(Bear in mind that SeaWorld itself is actually at the high end of the scale, compared to other theme-parks where dolphins and other animals are held captive.)
Tilikum was not on show at SeaWorld when Naomi visitied. But you could see him from high up in the bleachers or by going around to the back and watching him through a fence. Naomi notes that “Tilikum essentially remained motionless, logging in front of one of the gates separating the back tank from the middle tanks. The other whale was relatively active, swimming around, at one point bumping Tilikum (deliberately, one assumes), but Tilikum did not react to her.”
She adds that “Tilikum seems very depressed. He appears to be spending a lot of time alone (even when another whale is in there with him, he didn’t really interact much with her) and is not being allowed into the tank he is usually held in – and he seems to know it. Maybe he’s allowed in there at night. It’s very sad.”
A few weeks later, Naomi led a panel of experts who testified at a Congressional hearing about the (non-existent) educational value of places like SeaWorld, putting yet more pressure on the big business of dolphins.