SeaWorld Bogus Critique Of Blackfish

Originally posted on Tim Zimmermann:

Despite insisting that Blackfish is having no impact on its business, SeaWorld continues to invest heavily in a PR counter-attack on Blackfish and the former trainers who appear in the film.

It’s latest minute-by-minute critique of Blackfish was perhaps the most detailed, and most tediously off-base, critique it has issued yet.

Below you will find the Blackfish production team’s rebuttal. What’s notable is that SeaWorld continues to massage and manipulate the facts even as it tries to accuse Blackfish of mis-representing the facts. What’s also notable is that SeaWorld continues to try and distract and divert from the core issues raised in Blackfish about the wisdom and morality of killer whale captivity, without ever directly addressing those issues.

I guess we can keep going round after round on this, but the facts simply are not on SeaWorld’s side. And it seems clear that the public is beginning to understand a…

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Some background history at how I got interested in killer whale captivity

Originally posted on Educating people about killer whale captvity:


I never considered myself to be an animal activist. Sure I love animals but I was never passionate about trying to protect or educate people about the mistreatment or neglect of animals. I have three cats whom rule the roost, come and go as they please and who are spoilt rotten but I never put my head above the parapet with regard to animal welfare, until I saw a documentary called ‘Blackfish’ at the London Sundance film festival in April 2013.
I had seen ‘The Cove’ back in the summer of 2010 and I got educated about the plight of dolphins in Taiji, Japan whom are killed or selected for a life in captivity.

I found ‘The Cove’ harrowing and started to think back to all of the times I had visited America and had visited marine parks like SeaWorld…

In 1991 I was 13 when I had my first encounter at SeaWorld. I remember…

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Meet Pixie the Manatee

I have heard about Blue Springs, winter home of manatees, for years.  Even though it is late in the season, on a whim, we decided to go visit last weekend.  I had seen the list of some of the tagged manatees, monitored by Sea to Shore Alliance, before we went.  I was hoping for a sighting, but was not getting my hopes up since the weather was warmer.

As we got into the park, there were rumors of one manatee in the area.  Moving on to the end of the walkway I saw an infamous tag floating in the water.  There she was! Slowly moving among people swimming was a lone manatee.  Others in the area said her name was Pixie.


When I returned home, I looked up her profile, which states:

Pixie was rescued as a very young orphaned calf on July 24, 2010.  She was found in Daytona in the Halifax River, Volusia County, when she was 110 cm long and weighed 42 lbs, and brought in to SeaWorld in Orlando for medical care.  She also spent time in Columbus Zoo to grow and gain weight before being moved to Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa.  Pixie was released at Blue Spring in the St. Johns River in January 2014. 

After reading her story I was concerned.  What if she didn’t know how to leave the springs?  What if people harassed her in the spring?  What would happen if she didn’t leave?

All these questions were weighing heavily on my mind, so on Tuesday I decided to call.  First I spoke to Buddy Powell, Executive Director of Sea to Shore Alliance.  Buddy has worked for more than 40 years conserving manatees starting at Fish and Wildlife Service in the 1970s.  He co-founded Sea to Shore Alliance in 2008.  He said that occasionally a rescued manatee will imprint on people and not join the other manatees in the area.  He said they were looking for volunteers who would monitor her at the springs to ensure swimmers were keeping a distance from her.  I gladly volunteered and was then referred to Melody Fischer.

Melody, Manatee Field Biologist, instructed me to tell people to ignore her and stay 20 ft. away.  My first “shift” was to be Saturday, March 30.  She said worst case scenario, Pixie would be returned to captivity and put on a program to make her less reliant on humans.  I was looking forward to Saturday to do my part for Pixie to remain wild.

Thursday morning I received a heartbreaking email from Melody.

Fish and Wildlife Service has made the decision to bring Pixie into captivity as soon as possible for her safety and for the potential safety risk she could pose to swimmers after noting some of her more aggressive pursuing behavior.  A capture attempt is scheduled for today at 10 am. 

I was able to speak to Melody later and she explained that Pixie was becoming even more aggressive when she ignored.  She would most likely be returning to Lowry Park Zoo and would be a candidate for re-release next winter.  The concern is that if she chases after people, it would put her at a higher risk with boaters when/if she were to leave the spring.  For her safety, it is best to try to desensitize her to humans.

According to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Pixie was successfully moved to Lowry Park Zoo on Thursday.  Melody told DBNJ that Pixie will undergo “a behavior conditioning program to wean her off human attention and encourage her to socialize more with other manatees.”

I’m incredibly grateful for the work done by Sea to Shore Alliance, and hopefully I can see Pixie at Blue Springs next winter.  For more manatee updates, check out their partner’s page Save the Manatees Club and sign the petition to give manatees sanctuary in Kings Bay.  I’ll continue to post updates when available.

UPDATE 4/2/14

From Lowry Park:

Pixie arrived safely and is settling in to their Manatee Hospital and Aquatic Center. Her weight and body condition are in the normal parameters, so that is not a concern at this time. She will likely gain weight while she is there, since she will not need to find her own food. She is eating normally and has begun to socialize with other manatee patients. Their team will be working with her in the coming weeks and months to prepare her for another opportunity for release.



SeaWorld Makes A Big Splash In Worst Company Competition Debut; AT&T, Citi Also Move On

SeaWorld Makes A Big Splash In Worst Company Competition Debut; AT&T, Citi Also Move On

Originally posted on Consumerist:

wcia2014header In the nearly decade-long history of Worst Company In America, we’ve noticed that newcomers — especially those who make the bracket because they’re in the news a lot — either flame out in the early rounds (like Lululemon) or take the tournament by storm (like past winners EA and BP). This year’s out-of-nowhere surprise comes courtesy of the folks at SeaWorld, which swam to an easy win in its WCIA debut.

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Demonstration For Blood Dolphins To Take Place at The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums Headquarters In Switzerland

Originally posted on Champions for Cetaceans:

By Kirsten Massebeau

On March 28, 2014 Save the Blood Dolphins and dolphin advocates from all over the world, including Ric O’Barry star of “The Cove” and Director of the Ric O’Barry Dolphin Project, are planning a huge demonstration at The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) headquarters in Switzerland. The demonstrators are demanding WAZA end their silence and cut ties with the cruel dolphin drive fisheries in Taiji, Japan, and the captive industry that cannot sustain itself without the infusion of wild dolphins: “The number of dolphins bred in captivity does not replace the number that die. They suffer from high mortality rates, low breeding success and often endure physical and psychological disorders. Cetacea are frequently captured from the wild and sold into captivity.”(source)

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Four years of Awareness since Dawn’s Death

Today marks the 4th anniversary of Dawn Brancheau’s death and the four year journey of heightened awareness of orcas in captivity. Sadly, that awareness came too late for Dawn.  One has to wonder how she would feel if she were still here today, especially knowing that she was blamed for her own death.  There is no denying that her story opened the eyes of millions of people to the issues surrounding captivity.

I still remember that day clearly, the local news in Orlando constantly showing Tilikum alone inside his tiny tank as if being punished.  I didn’t know what to think.  Up to this point, I had never considered captivity being wrong.  I had visited the park on many occasions and had undoubtedly seen Dawn perform in several shows through the years. She was a local hero and a senior trainer at the park. I was dumbfounded.  Who’s fault was it? What would happen to Tilikum?


Photo from WFTV gallery

Many others also began questioning what went wrong.  First was Tim Zimmermann who wrote the comprehensive Killer in the Pool, an inside look into the subject of orcas in captivity.  He writes about Dawn:

IF ANYONE WAS GOING to take care around Tilikum, it was Dawn Brancheau. She was one of SeaWorld’s best and completely dedicated to the animals and her job. (She even met her husband, Scott, in the SeaWorld cafeteria.) She had worked at SeaWorld Orlando since 1994, spending two years working with otters and sea lions before graduating to work with the killer whales. She was fun and selfless, volunteering at a local animal shelter and often keeping everything from stray ducks and chickens to rabbits and small birds at her home.

Next, David Kirby writes Death at SeaWorld, giving detailed information of not only Dawn’s death, but also those victims before her. Kirby also outlines many other prior incidents previously hidden from the public.  Coupled with the studies of wild orca populations by Dr. Naomi Rose, the book exposes the dark side of orcas in captivity.

Following the release of the book, HSUS released The Real SeaWorld, a powerful 4 minute video featuring David Kirby, Dr. Naomi Rose, Jeff Ventre, Sam Berg and Carol Ray.

Probably the most powerful change has been the release of Blackfish.  Blackfish director Gabriella Cowperthwaite tells David Kirby that she made the film to answer the questions: Why was a senior trainer killed by such a highly intelligent animal, an animal with whom she presumably had a relationship?  Why would such a highly emotional, intelligent animal bite the hand that feeds it?

Blackfish opened at Sundance Film Festival last January and premiered on CNN October 24, 2013 as #1 in cable news averaging 472k in the key-demo adults 25-54 rating. Millions of people have seen the film and the views of the public are rapidly changing against captivity.

Dawn was the fourth victim taken by killer whales in captivity, but it was her death that brought the captivity issue into the forefront of public awareness.  There is no doubt that she had a love for the animals she cared for. I only hope that her story changes the way we view these animals and that our love for them is translated into doing the right thing.

Blackfish Effect At Work: Southwest Airlines

Originally posted on Tim Zimmermann:

It has been amazing to see all the Blackfish-inspired efforts to campaign for changes in the way we see and think about SeaWorld and the captive display of orcas. There have been a multitude of grassroots petitions urging musical acts to avoid playing at SeaWorld. There have also been grassroots efforts to inspire SeaWorld’s corporate partners to revisit their relationship with a business that displays orcas. For example, this petition to Southwest Airlines.

The response from singers and bands has been impressive. But getting corporate partners to move on from longstanding relationships is a bigger challenge, and multiple approaches are possible. That’s why I wanted to flag Kimberly Ventre’s quiet and respectful effort to engage Southwest about its relationship with SeaWorld. Instead of rallying thousands of potential fliers to petition Southwest, it is based on a strategy of trying to engage Southwest’s leadership in a thoughtful conversation…

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