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SeaWorld visitor’s disturbing video of struggling whale goes viral

July 29, 2013

This is not a good summer for SeaWorld, public-relations wise. First, it was smacked with a $38,500 fine from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in June for operating a workplace that could “cause death or serious physical harm to employees,” more fallout from the 2010 accidental death of trainer Dawn Brancheau at SeaWorld Orlando. They’ve also had to contend with the fact that the unflattering documentary Blackfish has recently been released in theaters around the nation (it’s opening at the Enzian in Orlando on Aug. 9). SeaWorld tried to pre-emptively refute information in the film before it was released, but the park’s spin machine quickly got smacked down by marine mammal advocates.

Now, this video from SeaWorld Orlando has turned up. Park visitor Carlo De Leonibus was visiting the park with his family when a small pilot whale apparently beached itself on a “slide out” area of the pool. Despite the mounting concern of the crowds, nobody from the park came out to help the whale. Other whales come out of the water and appear to try to help it, but an announcer tells people over a loudspeaker that staff is monitoring the situation and there’s nothing to worry about. De Leonibus estimated that the whale was stuck there for 10 to 20 minutes, and he and his family became so distraught that they went to seek help from staff. Eventually, trainers came and pushed the whale back into the water.

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  • Educator

    All of the pilot whales currently in that area of the park are the handful that have survived massive strandings in the last few years on Florida beaches. ALL of their podmates died and these whales would also be long dead if they had not been rescued and provided for by SeaWorld. Beaching behavior is poorly understood and this whale was not in immediate danger but the ignorant SeaWorld haters aren’t interested in these details. If this whale were returned to the wild it most likely would soon be dying a slow painful death from dehydration and starvation. If you’re in favor of that and want to second guess the decision made by state and federal wildlife officials to send them to SeaWorld, at least be honest about it.

  • Brian McNutt

    This video does not show him struggling. Looks like he’s enjoying a message by the rain. He’s prob a young whale playing in the rain like kids would do.


    totally upsets me to see this yes…but of course living in florida I agree with you Educator , we have whales that beach themselves all the time and yes he was fine and could have gotten back in the water…the problem that I see with the video or should say hear is the faul lang. that the guest / person uses around young children , and by him yelling you hear others start yelling….I feel one needs to understand that Sea World has done an amazing job with sea life that has been left for dead , etc…..time to cut them some slack and move on….if things are up to par on how folks see it….then they need not visit the park…I say they need not even visit Florida and if they are locals…then move elsewhere….

  • jzzyj

    OMG!! ALL that screaming and cursing Unnecessary! The animal is FINE! Good lord. Making a big stink. Unbelievable! Nobody’s perfect animal is NOT hurt GEESH!


    My ex-wife is asst director of Shows at Seaworld. This is like keeping 2 goldfish in a Champagne Flute…PURE CRUELTY!

  • Nikki

    Just because you’re a Floridian it doesn’t make you an expert on marine life and how they act. For every one “good” that Sea World does there are twenty horrible things that they put those animals through. You being blind and giving excuses for them only makes it easier for them to continue this treatment. And this is coming from a Floridian. Fucking idiots.

  • Gina

    Wow… This might be normal to some people, but the average person and most children visiting SeaWorld do NOT know this is normal. SeaWorld could have handled the situation waaayyyy better. All they needed to do was push him back in regardless if he was just hanging out or playing, especially since there were people and a lot of children very, very upset, not understanding the situation. If there were no visitors around then let the whale do his thing, but if people are watching, get out there and push him back in the water! Common sense!

  • Guest

    This is in direct contradiction to Sea Worlds perpetuation of the Taiji bottlenose dolphin slaughter. It would have ended years ago, but Sea World comes in during the drive, chooses a few and then the rest are slaughtered. The saving of pilot whales during a mass stranding is excellent PR and an attempt to offset the above mentioned travisty. These whales can sunburn easily as well.

  • susanna

    This is in direct contradiction to Sea Worlds perpetuation of the Taiji bottlenose dolphin slaughter. It would have ended years ago, but Sea World comes in during the drive, chooses a few and then the rest are slaughtered. The saving of pilot whales during a mass stranding is excellent PR and an attempt to offset the above mentioned travisty. Besides these whales sunburn easily out of the water and it WAS an issue.

  • Gina

    Where do they slaughter them? Right on the beech?

  • susanna

    Sorry. It;s easy to anthropomorphize in a situation like this. He isn’t just lolling his tail back and forth because he feels good. He’s probably been struggling a while and doesn’t have the energy to really thrash around enough to get back into the water. These animals can suffocate, when out of the water, from the weight of their own bodies pressing on their organs. They are used to the bouyancy of water.

  • susanna

    You don’t know that the animal is not hurt. This whale WAS in trouble.

  • susanna

    Sorry for the double post. I was trying to get signed in.

  • Educator

    These assertions about “The Cove” and SeaWorld are pure, unadulterated lies perpetuated by the same groups using Blackfish for fund raising. SeaWorld has no need to take dolphins from the wild and hasn’t done so in 30 years, but all you have to do is show portions of that heinous video and mention SeaWorld in the description and the outrage flows predictably downhill.

  • Susan Miller

    Sea World doesn’t slaughter dolphins nor do they take them from the wild. Like Educator said above, they haven’t taken animals from the wild in decades. They breed prolifically at Sea World. Something that depressed and mistreated animals will NOT do on their own. “The Cove” is absolute rubbish. And as for “Blackfish” I wonder if the film maker will be donating any of her profits to any oceanic organizations that help animals or is she just out to make a name for herself by lying about Sea World? I think I know the answer…

  • FBM

    Yeah one of the ex-trainers when he saw the video said though he wasn’t in immediate danger, he was clearly in distress and needed attention and a return to the water.

  • FBM

    Yeah an ex-trainer of SW said the distress was clearly there. He’s beached on his side and constantly and repetitively uses his tail to try to right himself to slide back in. Yet he can’t do it and being young and out of water, he’s just going to fatigue and be less successful. Another whale tries to help him but can’t.

  • FBM

    I think Orcas are the ones that they haven’t captured in 35 years. From what I remember from Dolphin Cove it said that SW had announced in 1995 they weren’t capturing dolphins and were instead breeding through AI. With the Orcas, SW was still buying from parks that had caught or themselves purchased captured Orcas. Tilikum was bought by SW from Sealand which bought him from the entity that captured him in Iceland.

    They shouldn’t have to capture dolphins as their breeding programs are more successful than with Orcas I believe.

  • FBM

    Where is your documentation that she “lied” about SW? SW on the other hand lied at least twice and got caught by OSHA in connection with the death of Dawn Brancheau. First saying she drowned although the only water that turned up in the autopsy was four milliliters in her sinus cavity. Yes, technically the county sheriffs who responded said that publicly but given that they didn’t witness the incident they most likely were relating what someone told them secondhand.

    Then they claimed the “pony tail story” which was refuted by witnesses and ultimately discredited through the OSHA investigation and vigorous cross examination by OSHA’s attorney in the hearings during the lawsuit.

    No one could absolutely testify under oath including cross that they actually saw for certain that Tilikum grabbed her pony tail. Yet SW perpetuated that and put words in a dead woman’s mouth (that she’d blame herself for her own death) through one of its spokesperson (the same head of training in Blackfish that SW later denied spoke for it though he had numerous times to the media on other trainer attacks including the 2006 attack on Ken Peters). That’s just one example where SW got caught not exactly telling the truth.

    Just one.

  • FBM

    They should have just put it back in the water when they saw it in distress. Not made a huge deal about it (which they ultimately did push it back in gently) and moved on.

    Then in the future, make sure their whales especially the younger ones are properly supervised even during lightning storms. If anyone’s going to be hit by lightning it’s going to be the folks in the stands as lightning tends to strike the tallest objects particularly if they’re metal.

  • susanna

    Yes, they do slaughter them right there in the town. The water turns red, and they drag them up a concrete ramp leaving trails of blood. This has been documented on video and is irrefutable. The Cove is NOT rubbish and I have a suspicion that Ms. Miller might be in the pocket of Sea World.

  • susanna

    You are correct FBM. They stopped the orca captures in the 70’s when Sea World reps were using seal bombs to herd and capture them. An orca baby died during the process. The captures were visible at the Washington State Capitol and that is one reason the bill was passed not to allow any more captures.

  • susanna

    Thank you Educator for speaking out and for your correction. One of the orcas caputured is Lolita at the Seaquarium in Miami. Her tank is leaky and the oldest in the country and her tail touches the bottom when she spyhops. She still has the same “dialect” as the orcas in the pod from which she was captured.

  • susanna

    The film maker was very careful NOT to lie about Sea World. And I saw a captured baby dolphin in 1989 at one of the facilities; only 2 decades.
    Ironically, I used to go by my married name “Susan Miller” when I worked at one of the parks, and when I lived in Friday Harbor, and I hope to God no one confuses me with you. And I do suspect you will profit from your stance here. Do you get money or contact privileges for your arguments?

  • FBM

    Actually the mortality rate of pilot whales at SW was 92% in their parks just 10 years ago. I hope it’s better now. Yes, no one understands why beaching happens with pilot whales and right whales in particular but I wish SW could explain why Pilot Whales even those performing fare little better percentile wise. I was trying to do more research on pilot whales in SW parks but it’s harder to even get a master list of all of them.

    The whale was in distress, but not immediate danger to its life. A former senior level trainer upon seeing the video said as much. Just put it back in the water and move on. Ditto the dolphin though in both cases, no trainers were supervising which is surprising to me because of the nature of display pools housing large aquatic mammals in close quarters that are trained to leap in shows you’d think they’d be more closely watched pursuant to SW’s own written policy. Go figure.

    Speaking of dehydration, do you know that SW Orcas have to eat up to 50 pounds of gelatin a day to avoid dehydrating because in the wild, they get all their water from their diet and the dried dead fish that SW feeds them doesn’t adequately hydrate them? Do you also know that gelatin in large doses gives Orcas ulcers? I’d hope even a SW “liker” (and I’m not a “hater”) would care about that. Ditto the fact that there’s virtually no Orca in SW’s collection that has teeth that aren’t missing or broken and subjected to partial root canals that have to be irrigated with iodine up to three times daily as to no abscess? Does SW explain why at night they were putting their Orcas in metal containers in darkness with other Orcas outside their natural pods?

    Speaking of slow, painful death besides the 92% of pilot whales who died, did you know about all the dead Orcas including Kandu V who choked on her own blood slowly over a 45 minute period after breaking her jaw while trying to “rake” Corky II in 1989? Or how Gudrun died after having a stillborn calf pretty much wrenched from her body after it got stuck? How she tried to drown her own calf Nyar including during a show? While researching Gudrun I discovered that before trying to birth that calf, she’d spent hours in the previous days “posing” for photos with people on a dry ledge, putting unusual weight (remember she’s an multi-ton aquatic animal) on her uterus that held her fetus. One reason listed for the fetus being stillborn.

    Taku, who died at 14 from pneumonia complicated by infection by the West Nile virus?

    Taima fascinates me the most, being a “hybrid” born of a “residential” mother and a “transient” father both who are dead I believe. She calved her firstborn at half the age she would have in the wild (though it’s academic b/c a calf like her never would have happened naturally) but she died while birthing another. Cause of death? Some said prolapsed uterus. Hardly surprising considering the unnatural number of offspring she had. Normally, female Orcas don’t breed until 14 and space their offspring about five years apart. Of course when you’re a “hybrid” broodmare that doesn’t work for SW. Prolapsed uteri in other mammals is linked to incessant pregnancies and birthing, i.e. you see it a lot in dairy cows who need to have calfs to produce milk.

    I’m not a “hater” per se but I’m not exactly a “liker” either. Education has had a strange effect on me. I don’t need a movie to tell me how to think. I’m more than capable of figuring out through research on my own, thank you very much.

  • FBM

    For one thing, all the cetaceans at SW are underexercised being in small confined pools so they’re not going to have the fitness needed to “play” or “learn” how to navigate off of a ledge. Fortunately some people moved in to push him in the water again. It’s not like he was dying but he was in distress. Put him in the water, move on and have a trainer supervising as stated in your company policy manual in the future even during lightning storms.

  • FBM

    It does remain to be seen in the future whether or not they’ll stick by that given that currently in their breeding program, they attrition more whales out mostly to premature death than those who survive birth and adolescence. Plus on the male side, they’re too reliant on Tilikum’s semen given the dearth of male studs in their collection. At one time it came down to purchasing Tilikum at Sealand versus Keiko who was floundering in Mexico in squalor conditions and not surprisingly Tilikum won out.

    He’s an AI stud which means he’s probably siring most of the offspring in other parks as well. Unless SW’s breeding successes improve, they’ll be out of Orcas within the next ten years or so and they’ll have to either go back to buying them off “middle men” (i.e. Tilikum’s original owners in Iceland) or return to catching them outside of Washington State and other restricted areas. Though buying them from countries like China and Russia straight out of the oceans is another option but only one small step removed from doing the actual catchings themselves.

  • FBM

    Someone interview cited Lolita as a possible rehab and retrain for release in part b/c of the dialect issue plus she has her teeth. Don’t know if it’d work though. As opposed to the SW orcas, none of which most likely could ever be released in the wild. Tilikum being one good example. He’s got no teeth left in his lower jaw’s and being almost 40, is about 38 years removed from his Icelandic and he’s been relocated twice already.

  • FBM

    She’s got dorsal fin collapse syndrome. Though more common in males in captivity (all of them get it) she’s been in captivity decades and in a very small tank. I don’t think she’d ever be fully released but I would love to see her get a better place to live. St. Juan Islands would work great as she’s “L” pod. She had a male Orca with her but he smashed into a wall and died of a ruptured aneurysm or something similar if I recall.

  • FBM

    You’re right, they breed prolifically using Tilicum for A.I. and breeding females younger and more often than they would naturally in the wild.


    The breeding program isn’t successful enough yet to offset the attrition of whales dying off.

    News flash: The whales are being artificially inseminated quite a bit of the time. How is that a sign that they’re not depressed or mistreating since you’re offering up their “prolific breeding” as proof against it? Do you think that “resident” females and “transient” males breed naturally in the wild? Do you think that mothers breed offspring sired by their own son in the wild? It’s not exactly as if the whales are happy enough to get randy in between shows in their pens and happily reproducing. It’s a bit more clinical than that.

  • susanna

    There was a point during which the slaughter in Taiji could have been stopped and thanks to Sea World it wasn’t. Period.

  • Skana

    What a great response! Couldn’t have said it better myself! At least some of us are educated. SW does a pretty good job of keeping people as uneducated as possible when you go to their parks or shows. Pretty much nothing in their shows is related to how these animals live in the wild- especially the Orcas. They don’t want people knowing Orcas regularly live past 60 in the wild (and in their early 100s in J2s case) when their animals die off usually before they even hit sexual maturity for the longer lived Orcas. Or, that when they were capturing the Orcas in the early 1960-1970s countless Orcas died durrng the capture. The SW captors slit their bellies, roped changes around them and put anchors in their bellies to try and get them to sink (that didn’t work though, they washed up for all to see anyway). That’s just fantastic. I’m so glad that the SW did such a good job at conserving their population when they captured some 263 Orcas from off the shores of Washington and British Columbia when there is only 81 Southern Resident Orcas now and less than 200 Northern Resident orcas. The list goes on and on as to why most people would tent to “hate” on SW. Anyone with a conscious, a brain, a heart, or a desire for human preservation for that matter would tend to look down on that business. All one needs to do is read. It’s perfectly clear.

  • jzzyj

    Ok no problem I understand of the animal was hurt/harmed but GEESH ALLL that screaming makes it even WORSE for the kids and others watching! Remember ADULTS stay calm so the KIDS don’t panic.

  • catt17

    Did you know that SEAWORLD deprives those poor animals of food if they do not perform in the appropriate way? Did you know that SEAWORLD puts unrelated whales in together and they often harm/kill each other? Did you know that they are confined in small tanks at night and this makes them insane? I don’t care what you say about SEAWORLD. I will never support them, they take young out of the oceans, many of them die during the capture process, and all you can say is they would have died anyway? Maybe, but not at the hands of humans. SEAWORLD tortures these animals depriving them of the basic necessities so they can make billions. When SEAWORLD starves them they “rake” each other with their teeth and cause severe scrapes and injuries. This is repulsive. SEAWORLD placed 3 large whales, females & 1 male in a 20×30 foot enclosure knowing that the females would be aggressive with the male and harm him at night. And we wonder why the attack humans? Sadly enough, the trainers that died truly tried to take good care of these whales in spite of the fact that SEAWORLD does not care about thier well being. The truth is killer whales can live 80 to 100 years in the wild. Ask SEAWORLD how long they live? They will tell you 30 years because they want you to believe that. Ask SEAWORLD why the whales have bent over fins? They are NOT supposed to, its part of being in cruel captivity. Its sickening, they make me sick to my stomach.

  • nathannall

    haha… we watch “Blackfish” and suddenly, we’re all marine biologists, investigative journalists, and whistleblowers. We all need to spend about a decade working behind the scenes at SeaWorld, as a trainer… as a custodian… a the CFO, on the board or directors, as a veterinarian, as a PR representative, as an advertising executive… etc. THEN, we can have an informed decision. I’ve done a lot of research too into both pilot whales and other various marine life at SeaWorld. You know what that research consisted of? Watching a documentary, googling, wikipedia, and browsing youtube. Thus… I know shat about the situation.