Is a mutual bond between animal and human required for waterworks? Captivity supporters often tout the trainer-orca bond. The common argument they use to back this up, is that such a large, dangerous animal won’t let just anyone get in the water with them; only trainers that have spent years building up that trust and relationship with the animals. Of course this is usually followed by some sort of comment seeping with emotionalism, for instance: “The trainers believe in their bond. Waterworks is a
miracle!” But who can blame the captivity supporters for this statement? Seaworld’s orca shows (especially, “Believe”) are one big play on emotions. The tricks displayed focused on kissing the whales, hugging them, even dancing with them, with a commentary about believing and following your heart. Through scripted displays of humans treating whales as though they were also humans, Seaworld encourages the audience to anthropomorphize the animals. So, you can hardly blame a captivity supporter when they claim that there is a “bond” between orca and trainer. (In my post “The Deceptive Orca-Trainer Bond” I address how this “bond” is not mutual but based on the manipulation of the animals.) Doesn’t there need to be a great amount of trust between orca and trainer before waterworks is even attempted?
To answer such questions, it would be fair to ask: how much time passes between getting hired as an orca trainer at Seaworld, and actually getting into the water with the killer whales? How long does it take to form this miraculous bond? According to Seaworld’s website here, the answer is 4 years, from apprenticeship, to waterworks. According to this Seaworld video, the answer is 2 years. After that it takes 4 years for trainers to go from basic waterworks, to advanced waterworks. According to this video the answer is 2 months. If you clicked on that link you’d also notice something strange. I suggest you give it a watch…
That’s right, after 2 days, this TV journalist got into the water with Corky and did waterworks with her like a pro! Not only does he do waterworks (which, according to Seaworld and captivity supporters, is supposed to take years of relationship building) but he hugs her, and kisses her. It is amusing when captivity supporters present pictures of trainers hugging the animals and then say “that looks like a bond to me!” when this TV
journalist walks into Seaworld and 2 days later is working with the animals as though he is just one of the trainers. Can these actions be called evidence of an “orca-trainer bond?” Considering the fact that even audience members are oftentimes invited to kiss and hug the whales, and celebrities who pay up can have an orca experience, I don’t think so. They are just responses to hand signals of course, and to our anthropomorphizing eyes, even a TV journalist can look like he’s spend years building up a mutual bond with Corky.
I can’t help but feel disappointed for the trainer named Holly, who didn’t get to swim with a whale until she had spent 2 years working with one of them. And all of the other trainers who were forbidden from entering the water with the whales … while this guy rolls up at Seaworld and hops into the tank. I also can’t help but feel as though there is a reason why the journalist reported that the gap between apprenticeship and waterworks was a mere 2 months, when Seaworld’s own website says that it actually takes 4 years or more.
You may have noticed that the video says Seaworld hasn’t allowed an amateur to enter the pool with a killer whale for 21 years (probably due to safety issues,) which leads to another question: how much money did this guy (or the news channel) dish out for this experience?! “Such large, dangerous animals wouldn’t let just anyone swim with them! It takes years of relationship-building and mutual trust to make waterworks happen.” I’m afraid this, and similar statements, are simply ridiculous.
As a side note, some rumors of orca pregnancies have been confirmed to be true. To my knowledge there has been confirmation from Loro Parque that young Kohana, who rejected her first calf, is indeed pregnant and due in September with her second calf.