Wednesday 5 March 2014

Blackfish lies - Debunking Seaworld's website announcement

 Seaworlds website states

4. The film spins an entirely fictitious account of Dawn Brancheau’s death in order to advance its anti-captivity narrative. To support this bias slant, and specifically the idea that Tilikum was a psychotic and violent animal because of captivity, the film engages in a series of false and misleading statements about the circumstances of Ms. Brancheau’s death:
  • In its opening sequence, the film misleadingly cobbles together separate pieces of innocuous training and performance footage, synched with the actual 911 calls, to mislead the audience into believing it is viewing the actual footage of Ms. Brancheau swimming with Tilikum prior to the fatal incident.  In fact, the opening sequence does not depict either Ms. Brancheau or Tilikum, or an attack of any kind.  From the date Tilikum arrived at SeaWorld, no one was allowed to swim in the water with Tilikum, and Ms. Brancheau never did so.
The opening sequence is above, it shows a trainer doing waterworks with a killer whale, no where does it state it is Ms Brancheau and that it certainly not Tilikum, so I guess that is Seaworld's presumption as I certainly didn't see the clip like that at all. 

  • Purely for shock value, the film includes a recording of an EMT technician, subsequently proved to be mistaken, suggesting that Tilikum swallowed Ms. Brancheau’s arm during the incident. This is false.  This fact was readily available to the filmmaker in the documentation she obtained from the Secretary of Labor, yet was not included.
This is not altogether incorrect, the part about him swallowing an arm may be incorrect, but that is the EMT technicians view, maybe he didn't know where the arm was. In Dawn's autopsy report  you can see on page 6, ''the left upper extremity is completely avulsed''  The definition of avulsed is In medicine, an avulsion is an injury in which a body structure is forcibly detached from its normal point of insertion by either trauma or surgery (from the Latin avellere, meaning "to tear off"). So this part was not purely for shock value the upper arm was torn off by Tilikum, who is to say that the EMT technician at the time knew where that piece of arm was?? I would dare say that due to the injuries she did sustain he would also have been incredibly shocked too. 
Witness statement also said he would not let them have Dawn back and his mouth had to be pried open  


  •  The film falsely suggests that SeaWorld “blamed” Ms. Brancheau for her death.  We have never done that.  She was our colleague and we mourn her loss to this day.  The film, however, does blame Ms. Brancheau, and it accomplishes this through former trainers with little or no relevant experience. These trainers were not present on the day she died, and callously presume to critique her interaction with Tilikum.  

Dawn is blamed 3 times in this video clip. 

 Chuck Tompkins, Sea World corporate curator for zoological operations, testified that there are no specific steps for trainers to follow to respond to a life-threatening situation in the water and that their lives are ultimately up to their own “best judgment call.” Tompkins admitted that the park does not even re-evaluate its protocols after an injury or death because it deems the injuries “a result of human error” and insisted that revising safety protocols is unnecessary. He also claimed that SeaWorld has “gotten a whole lot better” with the training process over time, despite, as government attorneys noted, the killing of two trainers in a two-month span.

Who gave the Orange County Sheriff this information??  SW convinced the Orange County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO) to report that a trainer had “slipped or fell” into the pool and died of drowning. Although witnesses did not indicate that she slipped or fell, OCSO Spokesman Jim Solomon s emerged from a meeting with SW officials and made that proclamation before a global audience. 
With this, the fabrications and deceptions began. Not only did OCSO make a major faux pas by making this announcement (which was subsequently withdrawn as the public came forward) but SeaWorld President Dan Brown also started the web of deceit. He expressed “we have never, in the history of our parks had an incident like this”. While partially true, he failed to mention that just eight weeks earlier Keto, a SeaWorld orca on loan to Loro Parque brutally killed trainer Alexis Martinez in a similar fashion. His death in the Canary Islands was also portrayed merely as an accidental drowning.
  •  The film blatantly mischaracterizes the events that led to the death of trainer Keltie Byrne at SeaLand of the Pacific, a park that was never owned or operated by SeaWorld.  Tilikum was one of three whales in the sea pen at the time Ms. Byrne drowned, and the jury in the Coroner’s Inquest (the Canadian investigation of the incident), which considered the testimony of 19 witnesses, did not identify any one of the three whales as the leader in the incident. Nevertheless, the film claims that Tilikum was the instigator, relying upon an interview given by two local residents.  Another key fact never disclosed in the film: David Duffus, who is featured in the film numerous times as an “expert”, was the foreman of this very same  Coroner’s Jury that investigated the Sea-Land incident.  Mr. Duffus testified that it was inconclusive that Tilikum was primarily responsible for the death of Ms. Byrne.
They use this  as their reference. this shows the recommendations and as far as I can see the only time Mr Duffus is mentioned in this report is that he is a juror. It does not show any testimony from him.

As in the previous article regarding the experts credentials, sea-world once again mislead the public by stating that Judge Welch had this to say about Mr Duffus. This is not true, the document is Seaworld's appeal document, what the Judge actually said about Mr Duffus in point 6  is 'he considered Mr Duffus a credible, informative witness whose opinions assisted the court.

The part regarding Tilikum is true however, none of the 3 orca were named specifically as the one that grabbed Keltie Byrne, yet the witness's on the Blackfish movie stated it was the one with the bent over fin which would have been Tilikum. Tilikums Seaworld animal Profile also states ''Please be advised this whale was involved in an accidental drowning of a trainer at Sealand of the Pacific in 1991. 

Why would the fact that Mr Duffus was  the foreman of the Coroner's Jury that investigated the Sealand incident be on any relevance what so ever?  The only way Blackfish mischaracterizes the incident with Keltie Byrne is to call those witness's liars, which they did not do. Those witness's stated they had never been called at the time of Keltie's death and they saw the whale with the bent over fin grab her. Why would they lie?  At the time the other thing noted about Tilikum was that if anything went into the pool, he would not give it back, yet Seaworld state this is irrelevant to the case of Dawn Brancheau

  •  The film similarly trades in fictional theories about the circumstances surrounding the death of Daniel Dukes, an intruder who broke into the back area of Shamu Stadium after hours and jumped into Tilikum’s pool. The film claims there was a “public relations version” of the death and that Mr. Dukes’ death was somehow caused by an act of aggression by Tilikum. A review of the official Sherriff’s report reveals  that virtually nothing said in the film about our conduct that day is true.  In fact, Naomi Rose, PhD.D., an outspoken critic of SeaWorld who actually appears in the credits to Blackfish, was quoted after the incident as saying since the body was found on Tilikum’s back, it’s unlikely the whale was behaving aggressively……The whale was probably playing with the man and continued to play with the body after the man died.”
Once again Seaworlds own profile for Tilikum states He was involved in an incident in July 1999 which resulted in the drowning of a guest in his pool, his participation was not known. 

Seaworld have repeatedly set the picture of Daniel P Dukes as some strange homeless person, probably under the influence of drugs who died from hypothermia.

Early newspaper reports showed he was neither, he was listed as living at the Hare Krishna temple in Miami, not as homeless, and once again the Orange County Sheriff's department gave a statement saying there was no foul play on his(Tilikum) part. An Autopsy was expected to show he had drowned as his body was not harmed. Bear in mind Seaworld would have removed the body to assess it was not harmed!

The medical examiners report shows quite a different story  
Before you read through it note the medical examiner reports both pre and post mortem injuries, showing Tilikum attacked the body before Daniel Dukes died and continued afterwards. Once again the word 'avulsion' came up as it did in dawn Brancheau's autopsy which means ripped off, this time it was Daniel Dukes, scrotal sac and testis that had been avulsed.
Also note there were no drugs or alcohol in his system.

As you can see the body was most definitely harmed in numerous places. The public relations version of this incident is, he was a strange drifter, who died of hypothermia and was found draped across Tilikum's back. Not anywhere have Seaworld mentioned what the results of the medical examiners report were, not even in his own Animal Profile which would have been available to trainers.

  • What clearly is supported by the facts is that prior to Ms. Brancheau’s accident in 2010, Tilikum had engaged in numerous interactions with trainers and veterinarians safely and without incident over a period of 18 years. Tilikum remains at SeaWorld, where he cooperates with trainers, socializes with other killer whales and our guests.   
This statement is also not true. His animal profile states
Tilikum finds aversive -
repetition during learning with repetitive incorrect responses
prolonged social access to other whales
prolonged separation without visual access to other whales, esp Taima
birds stealing his fish
too much change

Tilikums training history has been inconsistent for the most part. During times of frustration due to social stress in the environment, Tilikum has exhibited aggressive behavior by mouthing the stage, vocalization, tightening body posture, banging gates, a deep fast swim and sometimes lunging towards control trainer. It is important to remember his previous history and potential.

Occasionally he has displayed possessive behavior with objects and other whales in his environment.

Tilikums very first incident was whilst he was still at  Hafnarfjordur Aquarium, Iceland in 1984 - 3-year-old male Tilikum attacked his trainer when he was trying to get him to move from between pools at the Sædýrasafninu sea animal park, biting a good bit out of his wetsuit and dragging him down.

Of course it would have been very irresponsible of Sea World to breed an orca with a bad reputation. As in dog breeding if you have an attack dog, the dog is usually not allowed to breed and is consequently put to sleep. So it would be in Seaworld's interests to not have any involvement or the nature of involvement in the incidents known to the public or the trainers.

  • SeaWorld was aware of Keltie Byrne’s death when it acquired Tilikum.  We adopted special precautionary protocols regarding work with Tilikum, including prohibition of performance in-water work.  These protocols were impressed upon all trainers who worked with Tilikum, yet the film falsely implies that important safety information about Tilikum and his background were withheld.  This is untrue.  Nothing was ever concealed from Tilikum’s trainers.  During the OSHA trial surrounding Ms. Brancheau’s accident, SeaWorld provided more than 35 hours of testimony concerning our killer whale program and topics such as our detailed safety protocols and how they are communicated to our trainers.  All of this testimony was in the possession of the filmmakers, but ignored by the film. 
 No where in the protocols   does it state anything regarding the deaths of Keltie Byrne or Daniel P Dukes. The protocols are purely how people deal with Tilikum now. In the case of Keltie Byrne, neither the training protocols nor his animal profile state anything other than please be aware Tilikum was involved in an incident, in relation to Daniel P Dukes it also clearly states his involvement is unknown. After the autopsy was concluded the autopsy report proved Tilikum's involvement but no where is this information revealed to trainers, so the statement made that safety information about Tilikum and his background being with held is TRUE. It makes no difference that they made 35 hours of statements on their safety protocols as they do not reveal the autopsy report information on either previous killing.  Saying that the filmakers ignored it is a bit like pot calling kettle as the information regarding the injuries these people received is also available but ignored by Seaworld too.
  • The film misrepresents, through the use of footage four decades old, that SeaWorld takes a cavalier approach to safety and qualifications of its trainers. This is completely untrue.  The path to becoming a killer whale trainer is rigorous and lengthy: It takes years to be qualified to work with killer whales The film ignores all the steps and protocols trainers must take in order to be promoted through the ranks.   
  • In addition to our written safety protocols and extensive training processes, we have invested tens of millions of dollars in state-of-the art improvements, including lifting floors, underwater cameras, and other both passive and active devices, all of which are tied together in our Emergency Response Program. 
Making and training people how to perform an emergency response indicates that an emergency response will be needed again in the future which is the whole point OSHA have been trying to make.
The steps checklist also broken into week one and post week one which does not show it takes years to be a qualified killer whale trainer. Maybe it does but the examples given on the Seaworld website do not back that up.

With regards to 4 decades old footage - this is the footage I have found and comments seaworld made regarding each incident. I deliberately chose recent clips so it doesn't fall into the 4 decades category.
2009 - no where near 4 decades old - Keto.
To prove the cavalier attitude in this case you need look no further than the court room. 
Flaherty Clark  testified under oath that SeaWorld was not associated with Loro Parque. OSHA's report argued differently:
Sea World Parks & Entertainment sent several of its personnel, including SeaWorld of California's supervisor of animal training, Brian Rokeach, to Loro Parque to demonstrate its use of operant conditioning and to help implement its training program.
This is a blatant lie under oath by Kelly Flaherty Clark, as this is the original set up for Seaworld orca's at Loro parque along with photographs of staff there. 
Even though Brian Rokeach and experienced Seaworld trainer was present at the incident, Kelly Flaherty Clark blamed the inexperienced trainer and how Mr Rokeach dealt with the situation stating it wouldn't have happened in her park. 2 months later Tilikum killed Dawn in her park! 
The arrangement and statements from Fred Jacobs and Brad Andrews can be seen here The parks have enough that they can safely share four with the Loro Parque zoological park at Tenerife, said Fred Jacobs, spokesman for Busch Entertainment Corp., parent of the SeaWorld parks.

"We've known them for a long time, and they do an excellent job," Jacobs said of Loro Parque, a privately owned facility that features sea lions, dolphins, alligators, parrots and land animals but no killer whales.
Jacobs said Loro Parque trainers have been at SeaWorld in San Antonio for about the past year, learning to care for and train the big black-and-white sea mammals. A 7 million-gallon pool is under construction at Loro Parque to house the animals.
Two juvenile killer whales from Orlando and two from San Antonio will be shipped to the park as soon as the work is complete, possibly in early February, Jacobs said.
The killer whales are not being sold outright, but SeaWorld does have a "financial arrangement" with Loro Parque in the venture, Jacobs said. He would not provide details of the agreement.
Brad Andrews, director of zoological operations for Busch Entertainment, said Wednesday that the SeaWorld parks have been working closely with Loro Parque to make sure it has adequate room and proper training to handle the big animals, which have on rare occasions injured or killed humans.
Andrews said he just returned from a trip to Loro Parque and saw that the massive pool is coming along nicely.
"It's going to be outstanding," Andrews said. "We've been providing technical expertise, not only on the habitat requirements but also on the care and training of killer whales."
He said that once the four juveniles leave the U.S. parks, Orlando still will have eight (five adults and three juveniles); San Antonio will have five (two adults and three juveniles); and San Diego will have seven (four adults and three juveniles.)
Jacobs said the four that will be sent to the Canary Islands are fully weaned and mature enough to be transported.

If this isn't a 'cavalier' attitude then what is? 
Wolfgang Keissling and Brad Andrews at Loro Parque taken by Ingrid Visser

Dawn Brancheau training Alexis Martinez at Loro Parque
Kasatka and Ken Peters

Kasatka's animal profile shows numerous incidents in the 2006 incident above Kasatka's profile states - dunked trainer, grabbed knee. There had been 9 recorded incidents with Kasatka before this 2 with Ken Peters again. Ken Peters is an experienced trainer, so if this doesn't show a cavalier attitude as their were 9 prior incidents, then what is it?


Although this video says it is Tilikum it is actually Kyuquot refusing to let Steve Aibel exit the pool.

Kyuquot's animal profile says after this incident only the most experienced trainers were allowed to work with him. Yet the same thing happened again the following year. It states that in the years since the incident only limited waterworks have been done with Ky and before any were performed all social interactions were favorable. As he is a large bull orca who has done this twice, if this isn't a cavalier attitude then what is it?


Orkid's animal profile states they have been out of the water with her since this dunking incident in 2006. Seaworld have listed 12 incidents with Orkid before this one happened yet they were still in the water with her, she also has an incident after this one.
Despite all these incidents her profile states 'we have recently started getting into the med pool whilst Orkid is in B/C pools and asking for behaviors through the gates. she is doing well with this approximation back to waterworks.
Recently she has been sliding out at various slide out areas which has resulted in possible dangerous scenario's for guests. Despite all these incidents with Orkid, they are trying to get her ready for waterworks once again. Yet they have the nerve to say Blackfish makes out they make a cavalier approach to safety issues. What would you call the above then?

One thing that all of the trainers appeared to agree on was that an apex predator who is also highly intelligent, can form a deadly combination. John Jett told DJ:
One thing we know is that wild orcas will block exits from their prey items. Keto and Tilikum and many others seem to demonstrate this when attacking trainers. They seem to eliminate or reduce escape routes. These animals have an amazing evolutionary history that isn't removed from life in captivity. They're wired for this kind of behavior. They don't make mistakes.

Marine mammal veterinarian Jay Sweeney:
"Aggression expressed by killer whales toward their trainers is a matter of grave concern. Show situations involving water behaviors with trainers and orcas have become popular in recent years. Aggressive manifestations toward trainers have included bumping, biting, grabbing, dunking, and holding trainers on the bottom of pools preventing their escape. Several situations have resulted in potentially life-threatening incidents. In a few such cases, we can attribute this behavior to disease or to the presence of frustrating or confusing situations, but in other cases, there have been no clear casual factors."
(in Marine Mammal Behavioral Diagnostics, L. Dierauf (Ed.). 1990. Handbook of Marine Mammal Medicine, pp. 53-72.)

OSHA report on the Kasatka incident in November 2006:
"The contributing factors to the accident, in the simplest of terms, is that swimming with captive orcas is inherently dangerous and if someone hasn't been killed already it is only a matter of time before it does happen. The trainers recognize this risk and train not for if an attack will happen but when."
(in Occupational Health and Safety report, March 2, 2007)

  • In addition to our written safety protocols and extensive training processes, we have invested tens of millions of dollars in state-of-the art improvements, including lifting floors, underwater cameras, and other both passive and active devices, all of which are tied together in our Emergency Response Program. 

It doesn't matter how much you spend, Tilikum was brought up on a raising floor but he still wouldn't let Dawn go. These creatures could kill a trainer in seconds no matter how much money or improvements Seaworld make. The attack rates and source of evidence can be seen here.

  • Conclusion

  • All of the falsehoods and misleading techniques in Blackfish are employed in the service of the film’s obvious bias, one that is best revealed near the end of Blackfish by a neuroscientist with no known expertise in killer whales. She claims that all killer whales in captivity are “emotionally destroyed,” and “ticking time bombs.” These are not the words of science, and indeed, there is not a shred of scientific support for them.  Rather, they are the words of animal rights activists whose agenda the film’s many falsehoods were designed to advance. They reveal “Blackfish” not as an objective documentary, but as propaganda. 

Scientific evidence that Seaworld say does not exist.

In 1995,Small and De Master published a peer-reviewed paper on the survivor-ship rates of
several captive marine mammal species . This paper showed that, through the end of
1992 (the last year for which a complete set of annual data was available) orcas had significantly lower annual survival rates in captivity than in the wild. T heir annual mortality rate
(the inverse of survivor-ship) was more than two and a half times higher in captivity than in the wild. The data source for captive animals was the U.S. Marine Mammal Inventory Report, maintained by the National Marine Fisheries Service, an agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce. The data are provided to the agency by marine mammal public display facilities (henceforth called oceanaria) ; therefore, the database was if anything biased in favor of display

Of more than 130 wild-caught orcas held for public display, only 13 survive in oceanaria around
the world. Nine of these are older than the vast majority of captive orcas who have died.
.The remaining 29 living captive orcas are captive-born and therefore younger than 25
(with the death of Kalina, the oldest living captive- born orca is now Orkid, aged 23 years). Indeed,17 of the surviving captive-born orcas are younger than 11 years of age.
.See the orca white paper HERE

Lastly going back to Tilikums profile, Seaworld have always maintained there was nothing going on to make them believe that Tilikum would do what he did that day. His profile however states - during times of frustration during social stress in the environment, Tilikum has exhibited aggressive behavior including a deep fast swim and lunging at trainers.

This is the Believe show minutes before Tilikum grabbed Dawn, note the trainers leave the stage as aggression erupts in the tank.

Did Seaworld lie about there being no signs leading up to this tragic event or did they not see this in their own tanks? 

Although Blackfish used some clips that were not with the script, the storyline remains correct. Tilikum was harassed and mistreated at Sealand of the Pacific. He was often isolated at Seaworld as his profile states. He is bullied by the females and too big to get out of their way, he attacked from the first few days he was caught whilst still in Iceland and has continued to do so throughout his life, as an orca he has no other way to protest, yet despite all these things he is a successful breeder, in fact Tilikum is the most successful sire in captivity, with 21 offspring, 11 of which are still alive. While living in Sealand, Tilikum sired his first calf Kyuquot, which was born to Haida II on December 24, 1991. Since his arrival at SeaWorld, Tilikum has sired many calves with different female orcas:
  1. Kyuquot (1991)
  2. SOP-9201 (1992. Died after 36 days, cause unknown)
  3. Nyar (1993–1996)
  4. Taku (1993-2007)
  5. SWF-9401 (1994 Stillbirth)
  6. SWF-9601 (1996 Stillbirth)
  7. Unna (1996)
  8. SWF-9701 (1997 Stillbirth)
  9. Sumar (1998–2010)
  10. Tuar (1999)
  11. Tekoa (2000)
  12. Nakai (2001) †
  13. SWT-0101 (2001 Stillbirth)
  14. Kohana (2002) †
  15. Ikaika (2002)
  16. Skyla (2004)
  17. SWF-0501 (2005 Miscarriage unconfirmed)
  18. Malia (2007)
  19. Sakari (2010)
  20. SWF-1001 (2010 Stillbirth)
  21. Makaio (2010)
 In 1999, Tilikum began training for artificial insemination. In early 2000, Kasatka who resides at SeaWorld San Diego was artificially inseminated using his sperm. She gave birth to a male calf, Nakai, on September 1, 2001. On May 3, 2002, another female in San Diego, named Takara, bore Tilikum's calf through artificial insemination. The calf was a female, named Kohana.

Is this why Seaworld protest so much about Blackfish, who knows, but trying to deflect attention from what has happened in the park onto Blackfish being activist propaganda is not a good idea especially when evidence is out there for everyone to find.

 As Seaworld's research progressed so did wild research, as it progressed and more was learnt about their family structures and habits, the more apparent it became that these huge beautiful creatures should not be in captivity at all. 50 years is not a long time in the scheme of things, but it has been long enough for people to learn where the mistakes are, the hard part is getting Seaworld to admit that and try to put it right, rather than keep ducking and diving over bits of film,  which will then ultimately increase their image and profits.

The bottom line is Tilikum should be like this swimming with his family catching herring under the northern lights and would have been had it not been for the Marine Park Industry.

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