Whale That Killed Trainer to Perform Again

SeaWorld putting Tilikum back to work
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 30, 2011 4:48 AM CDT
SeaWorld's Trainer-Killing Whale Tilikum to Perform Again
Jim Atchison, President & CEO of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, speaks during a news conference at the killer whale underwater viewing area of SeaWorld in Orlando, Fla.    (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Tilikum, the killer whale that drowned a trainer last year and has been involved in two other human deaths, is returning to show business. Officials at Orlando's SeaWorld say the 6-ton whale, the largest killer whale in captivity, will take part in shows beginning today. The park has spent millions on safety upgrades since the death of trainer Dawn Brancheau early last year. OSHA issued SeaWorld a citation last year accusing it of exposing its killer-whale trainers to danger without adequate protection.

SeaWorld says taking part in shows is an important part of the whale's "physical, social and mental enrichment"—but critics accuse the park of risking trainers' lives, even if they won't be in the water with the giant beast. "If you had a friend that had a dog that had mauled three people, would you go play with that dog?" a former dolphin trainer asks the Orlando Sentinel. "These people only care about the show. They never learn." SeaWorld is working on plans to get trainers back into the water with its killer whales—although not with Tilikum. No one was allowed in the water with Tilikum last year when Brancheau was killed. He grabbed her as she remained outside the pool and dragged her underwater. (More Dawn Brancheau stories.)

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