are grossly underpaid’ says Jeff.‘They work long hours and scruba lot of fish buckets.’ Carol hassimilar memories: ‘Cleaning,cleaning and more cleaning is thename of the game when you’re anovice. Scrubbing buckets,schlepping heavy buckets of fisharound for other trainers,scrubbing seagull poo off thestage, for example, likely makesup most of the day for newertrainers.’ Samantha was rathertaken aback, too, when she firststarted her job at SeaWorld in1990. ‘Like Jeff, John and Carol,who all had bachelor’s degreeswhile working at SeaWorld andwent on to advanced degrees, Iassumed I was going to beinvolved in a job where there wassome actual useful research goingon. But the entire time I wasthere, I saw very little scientiﬁcresearch, and most of theresearch I did see was basicallyfocused on how to keep theanimals alive in captivity, notnecessarily anything that wouldbeneﬁt wild populations.’
It wasn’t long before other alarmbells started to go off, too.‘Captive orcas break their teeth onthe steel bars that separate themfor shows and training sessions,’says Jeff, ‘and once they break off the enamel, the pulp of the tooth isexposed. This can then form acavity leading to food plugging. SoSeaWorld vets drill out the core of the tooth, where the pulp is, and itleaves an open bore hole, whichthen needs to be irrigated two tothree times per day by the trainerswith an antiseptic solution to keepdead fish from getting plugged. Allof this was very concerning, butwe were told to tell the public thatthe whales were receiving“superior dental care”. The reasonfor the fractured teeth wascaptivity itself, but we didn’tmention that part. SeaWorld spinsit to make it seem “better” thanthe wild. We were also told torepeat incorrect longevity data toschool children during“educational shows”, as well as tosay that dorsal fin bending andcollapse is “common” in the wild.We now know that dorsal fincollapse, as seen in 100% of captive male orcas, is incrediblyrare in the wild and associatedwith illness or trauma.’‘For me,’ says Carol, ‘the issueof moving Kalina to Ohio, awayfrom her family at Shamu, was ahuge factor and something that Icouldn’t ignore. I vehementlydisagreed with what we weredoing, and yet was completelyhelpless to do anything. Othersituations that were distressingfor me generally involved thelarge male we had at the time,
Man peoplethew coin in thewate and omedolphin atethem and ot ickand died. Onetned white befoe din
TrAINErs OF THOugHT
Sam worked at SeaWorld Florida or overthree years rom February 1990 to August 1993. She nowowns an acupuncture centre in Alaska with her husband,Kevin.
O Carol’s three years at SeaWorld (1987–1990),she spent approximately 2.5 working at Shamu Stadium withorcas, and 6 months at the multi-species Whale and Dolphinstadium. She is currently the owner and director o threepediatric speech therapy clinics in the Seattle area.
Dr Jefrey Ventre:
Jef is a medical doctor who specialisesin Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. He worked as atrainer at SeaWorld rom 1987–1995, spending seven o theeight years with whales and dolphins.You will be able to read comments rom the ourth membero the ex-trainer group,
Dr John Jett
, in the next issue. Johnworked or SeaWorld or our years in the early to mid-1990s.He grew disillusioned with killer whale captivity pretty quickly.He was dismayed by the act that no real science was occurringdespite what he was led to believe. Being orced to attend PR seminarsto learn what to say was also a big red flag. He currently works as aresearch proessor with an interest in waterway management issues.
Kanduke. In my view, I saw himas miserable, neglected and withno social connections, human ororca. I was conflicted when hedied. I felt like I should only besad, and I was, but there was alsoan element of relief about it – likehe was finally free.’Samantha had her concerns,too. ‘The dolphin petting pool,for example, was just awful inretrospect. All day long, kids andpeople crowded around this littlepool trying to pet dolphins –some would actually try to putthings in the dolphins’ blowholes.Many people threw coins in thewater and some dolphins atethem and got sick and died. Oneturned white before dying fromzinc poisoning.’Despite these misgivings, thetrainers carried on with theirjobs. Why? ‘It is interesting that,as close as some of us were whileworking together, these kinds of things were not openly discussedeven amongst friends,’ Carolcontinues. ‘I had conversationswith friends who I did not workwith, regarding concerns. But itwas somehow taboo to even havethese conversations with thepeople I shared the work with. Ithink that’s a testament to howwell SeaWorld does atindoctrinating new staff, forexample with buzz words toavoid and the proper euphemismsto use. At the same time, Icertainly take responsibility for