Sea World Tragedy
I’m sure most have you have heard by now, especially if you’re from or live in the Central/South Florida area, that a Sea World trainer named Dawn Brancheau died yesterday while in the middle of a show when a killer whale took a hold of her and killed her. This is actually not the first time this has happened. Not about animals attacking their trainers. We hear about that all the time. Remember what happened to Roy from Siegfried and Roy a few years ago? This was actually not the second, but the THIRD TRAINER THIS SAME WHALE HAS KILLED since 1991.
As always, it takes a horrible tragedy like this for people to spark the new debate, have searches on search engines go up 1000%, and for journalists and bloggers (yes I’m including myself in this) to remind everyone the obvious: wild animals (no matter how big or small) should not be forced to perform tricks for the sake of our amusement.
Now obviously this is a subject that has been debated for decades and I am certainly no one to provide expert opinion on anything regarding care for wild animals or whether or not zoos and aquariums with their simulated habitats are good or not for the animals, but regardless, let me tell you what I believe. I believe that whether or not you’re in favor for keeping animals in any kind of captivity, what happened to Dawn is tragic and my heart goes out to her friends and family. All living creatures including human beings, basically anything with a brain, (no matter how developed or brilliant; the killer whale is considered one of the smartest animals in the animal kingdom) have the ability to snap. And when you make a 12,000 pound animal perform mindless tricks and jumps that are outside what they would do in the wild three times a day nearly 365, it was only a matter of time.
I was in Miami Metro Zoo and the San Francisco Zoo last year and I saw hundreds of animals in simulated environments. I can’t tell you whether or not the animal is happy or whether it knows if it lives in an environment outside of their natural habitat or the wild, but at least the animal was just sitting there and not forced to do mindless tricks all day to loud applause and flash photography that can spook or aggravate the animal.
Animal rights activists and zoologists have debated greatly over whether or not an animal can survive in the wild after it’s placed in (or even born into) captivity. In the movie Free Willy, this really happened. They attempted to rehabilitate the animal and release it back into the wild and tragically it didn’t survive. I think Safari explorers (not poachers or hunters) are some of the craziest and most amazing people in the world. These people travel around the world to study animals in their own habitat and environment to gather information that you can never obtain no matter how many years you have an animal in captivity or how realistic the simulated environment is.
As to whether or not it’s acceptable to have wild animals in captivity, I can see just as I’m writing this, it’s a slippery slope to conquer and debate. I can’t even think up a concrete conclusion to the matter. I’ll leave that to the experts.