After the judge ruled last month that killer whale trainers may be out of the water for good, SeaWorld fans are crossing their fingers that the newly constructed rising pool floor model will be deemed feasible resulting in the return of waterworks. The pool floor is designed to rise to the surface within 15 seconds, lifting any attacking whale out of the water. Considering the fact that Alexis Martinez was killed on impact with the whale Keto, SeaWorld’s fast-rising floors may not be fast enough to save a life and they do nothing at all to prevent an attack from taking place. Only one rampaging whale has been brought to the surface with a fast-rising pool floor, and it took 40 minutes for employees to pry the body of a trainer from his mouth.
The rising pool floors also causes another rigged situation which automatically sets the employees up for blame should an incident take place. If a person raises the floors and there isn’t an attack, or raises the floors too soon causing a panic in the crowd – they would be at risk for being reprimanded or fired. If they raise the floors too late and a trainer dies or is injured – they will also be blamed by upper-management.
Installing these floors in every pool at every park seems like quite the feat – especially considering all of the legal fees that SeaWorld has spent! But funds isn’t the only thing that has come into question regarding the floors. Many people are doubting whether or not the device can displace as much water as is contained in the show pool and are questioning how the Shamu shows will continue when the stadium is under construction.
Overall, I am getting the impression that many SeaWorld fans are more concerned about waterworks than they are with trainer safety. There are several statements I have come across that have argued for the return of waterworks. Most of these have been outlined in an article by Mark Simmons that was published on June 6th. In the article Mark states:
” If whales don’t receive “waterwork” conditioning, they will not learn the etiquette of relationships with humans in the water. In terms of risk assessment, this will produce a hazardous multiplier effect that is 180 degrees from what the court sought to achieve.”
In response to this, the judge’s verdict stated: “Not all killer whales are amenable to water desensitization. Prior to Ms. Brancheau’s death, management personnel in the SeaWorld parks had determined that trainers should not perform waterwork with certain killer whales.” It also explains that SeaWorld sought to desensitize Tilikum to the presence of trainers in the water, and Kelly Flahrety Clark claimed that Tilikum was fully desensitized to ponytails (some eye-witnesses observed Tilikum pulling Dawn Brancheau into the water by her ponytail.) It is clear that in both cases regarding Tilikum, the desensitization did not work. In fact, it has never stopped a whale who is seeking to attack a human being, and so it is not a feasible safety measure to hinge a human life on.
“She [Katina] has thrived on water interaction with trainers for more than 35 years. On the human-animal relationship scale, she is a sweet and loving animal. What if parents abruptly withheld all forms of physical contact from their children … with no explanation?
Here, Mark disagrees with taking away waterworks, saying it is just as abusive as withholding physical contact from a child. The irony is that Katina has been denied ALL contact with 5 of her 7 calves who were taken away from her at young ages by SeaWorld. Unfortunately, this is not a rare occurence with marine parks. Katina’s first-born daughter Kalina, also became a successful breeder for SeaWorld Corp, producing four calves – all of which were taken from her before the age of four – most before the age of two. Mr. Simmons, and many pro-captivity activists are clearly outraged that the orca/trainer “bond” may suffer if waterworks is banned, but they do not bat an eye at the fact that Katina has been denied any bond whatsoever with 5 of her 7 children, and Kalina was refused the opportunity to mother any of hers. That speaks volumes in regards to the selfish priorities of such activists.
“…Is deprivation the answer for Katina and 20-some whales like her?”
If lack of waterworks is considered “deprivation,” then Tilikum, Kasatka, Orkid, Keto, Skyla, and Tekoa are being deprived as they have had no waterworks in their lives for years. Many pro-captivity activists have responded to the ruling by returning to their old play-on-emotions tactics; claiming that the bond between orcas and trainer is magical and miraculous. Yet evidence shows this is not enough to prevent death or attack. “The bond” didn’t save Alexis, it didn’t save Keltie, and it didn’t save Dawn.