Sea World may be known for its entertaining killer whales, but harmony is the product that fills its amusement parks. What could be a better feel-good experience than watching man and whale, bonded in seemingly mutual affection, playfully perform in a stadium-sized swimming pool before thousands of visitors? Such is the illusion that Sea World seeks to create in its famous whale shows made popular by its most famous orca, Shamu. Two years ago, however, 12,000 pound Tilikum, another popular performer, disrupted the parks’s peacefulness when he jumped out of the water, grabbed his trainer Dawn Brancheau by her ponytail, and dragged her underwater where she died of injuries and drowning.
This wasn’t the first time the orca Tilicum had killed. In 1991 he was involved in the death of another trainer, Kathy Lee Byron, at a marine park in British Columbia. And in 1999 the dead body of a bruised and scratched man who had sneaked into Tilikum’s pool area was found on top of him. On May 30, 2012, Judge Ken Welsch reached a decision in the SeaWorld vs. OSHA case ruling against Sea World and, thereby, denying Sea World the right to place its trainers in danger by allowing them into the whale pools.