The HSUS has warned the public for years about the risks for orcas and their handlers in holding the world's biggest predators in captive settings for SeaWorld acrobatic performances. Dawn Brancheau was the third person killed by Tilikum, a 30-year-old male killer whale, and SeaWorld has subsequently expressed an interest in seeing the animal continue to perform, albeit with new restrictions on interactions with his handlers.
An orca in the wild.
The HSUS's Dr. Naomi Rose studied orcas in the Pacific Northwest for her dissertation research, and she's spoken out in a measured way on all manner of marine mammal protection issues in her professional capacity. Since the attack 12 days ago, she has appeared on Larry King Live, ABC's Nightline, and other settings and she's now recommending to SeaWorld's ownership group that Tilly be retired to a sea pen in Iceland, in order to provide him a more suitable environment.
Orcas in captivity do not live nearly as long as orcas in the wild, and in captive settings, they do not live in the tight family groups or find the stimulation or behavioral opportunities they get in natural habitats. We were pleased to see the editorial board of the Los Angeles Times associate itself with the idea that it's time we stopped the orca acts. It's worth a careful read.
A postscript: Marine mammal protection and the captive display industry were also in the spotlight last night when "The Cove" captured the Academy Award for Best Documentary. This gripping film, which exposes Japan's horrific dolphin slaughter and its role in the captive display and swim-with-dolphin industry, is also a nominee at our 24th Genesis Awards.