The orca whale that killed a trainer at SeaWorld in Orlando last year gave his first performance since the violent event unfolded in front of a horrified audience. Tilikum drowned 40-year-old Dawn Brancheau in February of 2010, and has not performed in a show since then, allowing park officials time to make safety upgrades.
In August, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration ruled that Seaworld had showed indifference or complete disregard for worker safety by exposing trainers to drowning hazards when they interact with killer whales.
The agency fined SeaWorld $75,000 and recommended that trainers be prohibited from any physical contact with Tilikum unless protected by a physical barrier.
Tilikum’s Big Comeback at Sea World Watch Video
In response, SeaWorld officials report they are building fast-rising “false bottom floors” in their pools that would lift whales and trainers out of the water in an emergency.
Many park visitors seemed less interested in safety that spectacle: “That’s a chance that you take when you go and see an animal show whether it’s whales, it’s a lion, it’s a snake, you take a chance seeing something horrible happen to a human being,” Merly Carvalho said
Plans to get trainers back in the water with the whales moved forward earlier this month despite findings by OSHA charging that SeaWorld has recklessly put trainers in danger to enhance the entertainment value of its shows.
SeaWorld Training Coordinator Kelly Flaherty Clark says they feel it’s an important part of Tilikum’s physical, social and mental enrichment to be back in the water.
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