Death at SeaWorld: Shamu and the Dark Side of Killer Whales in Captivity [David Story time just got better with Prime Book Box, a subscription that delivers. Start by marking “Death at SeaWorld: Shamu and the Dark Side of Killer Whales in Captivity” as Want to Read: From the New York Times bestselling author of Evidence of Harm and Animal Factory—a groundbreaking scientific thriller that exposes the dark side of SeaWorld, America’s. Death at Seaworld by David Kirby, , available at Book Depository with free delivery worldwide.

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“David Kirby, whose recent book 'Death at SeaWorld' traces the history of killer whales in captivity, found that Tilikum was captured off Iceland. Death at SeaWorld centers on the battle with the multimillion-dollar marine park industry over the controversial —San Francisco Book Review – FIVE STARS. Death at SeaWorld. If David Kirby's new book is any indication, the tide may finally be turning against orca captivity. In Death at SeaWorld.

Death at SeaWorld is a hard book to rate. There is no doubt this book is jam-packed with information about whales, both their lives in the wild and how they fare in captivity spoiler alert: It also provides more details about various injuries and deaths at marine parks than you're likely to find anywhere else, and is probably the most comprehensive account of the battle between OSHA and SeaWorld that's been written to date.

It is, in fact, a perfect, depressing microcosm of t Death at SeaWorld is a hard book to rate.

It is, in fact, a perfect, depressing microcosm of the ways large corporations can download off politicians in order to remain essentially unregulated, regardless of the stakes. The writing is pretty corny but entertaining and accessible. If you're interested in this topic, you shouldn't hesitate to read Death at SeaWorld. Still, this book could've been better. Kirby focuses on a few people of interest in telling this story—some SeaWorld trainers and especially Naomi Rose, a marine biologist who works for the Humane Society.

These were all interesting people, and I can see why Kirby thought they would be a good way into all of the information he wanted to impart, but really this book doubles as a bio of Naomi Rose, and I don't know that anyone needed or wanted that.

We didn't need to know about every move she made in college and grad school, for instance, or the details of her wedding. In addition to feeling superfluous, this focus on Rose was limiting. For example, the book describes a congressional hearing featuring several panelists, all there to talk about the topic of whales in captivity. Kirby recounts this hearing as a showdown between Rose and a SeaWorld spokesperson, completely omitting anything the other panelists said.

I would've liked to have known what the other panelists said! That's why I was there, for the information, not for the life and triumphs of Naomi Rose.

Beyond that, the aforementioned corny writing was frustrating. I don't need Kirby's contrived descriptions of everyone's appearance; if it was important to him for us to know what everyone looks like, why not include a photo section? That would have been way more interesting than his describing women as "older" and "matronly," talking about the "blond strands running down" one woman's back and other awkward turns of phrase, and constantly reminding us how pretty some of the young women are.

In any event, this is still worth reading, and I landed at 4 stars based on the book's sheer informativeness. I recommend following up with a viewing of Blackfish —I'd seen the movie before, but after spending a whole book with the trainers, it was fascinating to watch it again and see what they all actually looked like.

Plus, they provided bits of info that weren't covered in Death at SeaWorld , such as their analyses of what actually happened on the day of Dawn Brancheau's death.

Finally, if after all this you find you're really into cetaceans, I also recommend the documentaries The Cove and Racing Extinction for extra credit. View all 9 comments. Nov 06, Willow rated it liked it. Several years ago I watched a National Geographic special on sea lions. A little baby sea lion had just shed her fuzzy white fur and was starting to move around on the snow, when all of a sudden a giant killer whale cracked through the ice from below, leap up and grabbed her.

No instead both orcas tossed the baby seal back and forth between them on their rostrums like they were playing. Yet this is what Tilikum and two female whales did to a year old marine biology student, Keltie Byrne, back in , when she slipped by the pool. The three whales bounced her around like a beach ball, dragging her under the water, pulling her back and forth.

When she tried to escape on the side, she was pulled back in. Nine years later, Tilikum would also kill Dawn Brancheau in a gruesome attack, which is the subject of an eye-opening documentary called Blackfish http: They are brilliantly clever. Killer whales also know how to take out great white sharks by tipping them on their backs, which makes them immobile. Orcas will leap up onto the beach and jump, breaking the ice to catch sea lions.

And bored, captive killer whales will leave bits and pieces of their half-eaten fish dinner floating on the water and wait for birds to swoop down so they can catch them.

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Killer whales are also very social and family oriented. What was even more surprising to me was that while orcas are all the same species, they are very different. They are separated by culture and language. Consequently, if you put three whales in a pool, they may not be able to speak to each other and may actually have some animosity toward each other. One of my favorite parts of this book was about Dr. Paul Spong, a New Zealander, who had a life changing epiphany while working with orcas.

He realized the depth of their intelligence when a female orca purposely did not select the lever that would have given her a fish. What could be her motive; just to mess with him? And then he saw a young orca dance to music, moving with the tempo and keeping time, demanding that he play him different kinds of music for him every day. I know I am anthropologizing when I say this which is a big no no but damn they sure seem to have a lot in common with us.

Obviously, orcas are too smart to be pets. They need their families, their freedom and mental stimulation. Orcas communicate through sounds and sonar, so being placed into a cement pool is like sensory deprivation. And all killer whales die much younger in a captivity than they would in the wild.

One story made me cry.

That is the story of Keiko the star of Free Willy. Talk about a sweetie. Keiko was not like Tilikum. I believe Keiko truly liked humans.

I say this because he was so gentle with them. Picked up when he was still a baby, Keiko was raised around dolphins in a tank way too small for him and in water that was too warm, chlorinated, and filled with his own excrement. He developed a nasty skin disease. They said he would probably only live another six months. But after Free Willy , he became a celebrity. Everybody wanted to free him, and a huge expensive program began in the effort to train Keiko how to survive in the wild.

In many ways I think the program succeeded. Keiko did learn how to catch his own food. But Keiko never bonded with other whale pods. Shy and unsure of himself, he stayed close to humans, going up to fishing boats, looking for handouts.

When he was found beached up on the shore in Norway, having died from pneumonia, a big controversy erupted saying that setting Keiko free was cruel. Keiko did the same thing when he was put in the sea pen. Can you imagine what that must have been like for him? To spend almost all your life in a pool that was too small for you, and then to be back in the ocean. Yet his story makes me so sad, because I will always think of him as never having found his place in the world.

The answer is mehhh Yes Kirby has a plethora of interesting information, but he also included a plethora of boring dribble. He goes into exhaustive detail about the biographies of Dr. Who cares about what kind of music Dr. Rose was listening to when she drove up for her interview with The Humane Society.

Here I just wanted to read about whales, yet Kirby kept interrupting the good stuff with crap like this. Rose calling SeaWorld officials names. This disappointed me, because to be honest, Kirby was preaching to the choir with me. I already thought that SeaWorld cared more about profit than the welfare of orcas or their trainers. SeaWorld is more likely to build another gift shop than make the pools bigger. SeaWorld will have to really go the extra mile for people to think highly of them again.

Meanwhile Tilikum is a lonely whale, stuck in a pool by himself. If I thought those whales were cruel tossing back and forth the sea lion, it is nothing compared to the cruelty of humans. View all 16 comments.

This sure as hell explains it. The author does an excellent job of winding a narrative through this non-fiction piece. It reads much like a story, or at least parts of it do. Some animals do fine in such surroundings provided the proper care and indeed even live longer.

They do some good, which even the author acknowledges. But orcas and the ridiculous non-educational shows are an entirely different story. These are highly social, highly intelligent creatures. They live their lives in families, not segregated from one another in separate pools.

Sons travel beside their mothers forever. So either those who run Sea World are stupid or they believe their own hype: First of all, as one character aptly pointed out, if cetaceans are affected by humans in the wild pollution, loud boats, etc. All throughout the book those in charge constantly hide things, lie, cover up, and provide misleading data. These are truly intelligent, social creatures being made crazy by their imprisonment.

A healthy chunk of this takes place during the time I worked there. I remember the protesters but like all Sea World employees was given talking points and healthy doses of Kool-Aid.

This was when Free Willy came out and it was fascinating to learn the whole story behind Keiko. This is a very important read, for anyone. Oct 28, Heather Fineisen rated it really liked it Shelves: I never knew I had an opinion on whale captivity. I was horrified at the death of the trainer at Sea World and believed it's just common sense not to hang out with killer whales.

After watching the movie Blackfish recently, I was struck by the seemingly deep emotions experienced by the whales when they were captured, both by the pod members still at Sea and those taken away.

I needed to know more. I know more now but this is a decidedly one sided picture as Sea World did not participate in Kirby I never knew I had an opinion on whale captivity. I know more now but this is a decidedly one sided picture as Sea World did not participate in Kirby' s interviews or information gathering.

Kirby presents more than enough information on the subject with plenty of research and footnotes. I certainly don't have the answers, Kirby doesn't, and the many players he follows in the book unfortunately don't. But it's a great read for those who have an interest in more about the subject.

I have been to Sea World, marvelled at the water shows and bought the souvenirs. I have the pictures. Well, ignorance really is bliss.

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Sea World is appealing the ruling that they cannot have trainers in the water as the whales are basically unpredictable and suggesting their trainers fall under the same definition of professional sports, ie race car drivers or football players. Sea World says dancing whales and trainers in the water together are a must for the livelihood of Sea World. And the livelihood of trainers and orcas?

Stay tuned. View all 5 comments. Jul 26, Ariel rated it it was amazing Shelves: One of the most powerful books I have ever read and along with Unbroken, my favorite nonfiction read of the year. Much like how Upton Sinclairs, The Jungle another favorite of mine exposed the seedy side of the meatpacking industry during the early 20th century, this book lays bare the Sea World behind the facade they put for One of the most powerful books I have ever read and along with Unbroken, my favorite nonfiction read of the year.

Much like how Upton Sinclairs, The Jungle another favorite of mine exposed the seedy side of the meatpacking industry during the early 20th century, this book lays bare the Sea World behind the facade they put forth to the public so they will not know that their money is paying for the enslavement and torture of intelligent beings. When I first picked up the book I thought the title Death at Sea World referred to the death of popular Sea World trainer Dawn Brancheau but by the time I finished I realized that it could just as easily apply to all of the Orcas who have died at Sea World so that the public can get their entertainment fix and Sea World their money.

Before I started reading this book I was under the impression that this book mainly concerned the death of Dawn Brancheau. While it does address this incident it covers so much more. In the past it didn't even occur to me to think that Orca's should not be kept in captivity.

I knew the rinky dink Miami Seaquarium by me was low caliber. The tanks were dirty and Lolita the whale looked sad in her undersized pool but didn't have any problem with Sea World. I had taken my daughter to Sea World when she was five and had a wonderful time. It looked clean and state of the art in technology. The performance pools for the whales were small but surely they must have huge tanks in the back where you can't see right?

This was to be only one of many misconceptions I had exposed after reading this book. What I learned led me to completely change my mind and come to the conclusion that whales of any kind as well as dolphins should not be kept in captivity.

This book begins by telling the journey of two very different people who finally wind up at the same place, as champions for the Orca's that cannot speak for themselves. Naomi Rose is a scientist who studied Orca's in the wild for many years.

After she finished school she was hired as the senior scientist for the Humane Society International. She did not start out against whale captivity but her many years of research in the field led her to believe that Sea World's assertion that whales live longer in the wild is incorrect.

In fact Naomi studied and came to know the relatives of the very same whales being held in Sea World's tanks today. According to her not only do whales live longer in the wild, they exhibit almost none of the behaviors that they are forced to perform in shows.

In contrast Jeff Ventre was a Sea World trainer. He took a job there under the impression that he would be involved in scientific research. He soon found out that there wasn't any science happening behind the scenes, it was all show business. He was making minimum wage while performing dangerous stunts that could potentially kill him. After watching numerous whales injure themselves and others and die he began to speak up at work which led to his eventual firing.

He quickly came to the conclusion that the way Sea World was running it's whale program was disastrous for the whales as well as the the trainers. The book goes on to document just how the whales are captured in the wild.

Giant nets scoop them up.

In one infamous incident, the whale round up at Penn Cove, eighty killer whales were caught in one net. This was the catch that netted Lolita who lives in Miami, the only whale still alive from that day. Many of her family were killed in the round up. Whales spend their entire lifetimes with their families. Calves stay with mothers for many years. This is an important fact that Sea World has tried to keep hidden from the public and even their own staff because the routinely break up families and force whales into artificial pods with sometimes disastrous results when the whales fight for dominance with their tank mates.

Sea World also splits up mothers from babies before the baby is even two. One trainer recounted an agonizing night listening while a mother and baby cried and screamed for each other before they were split apart forever. Sea World also forcibly impregnates female whales much earlier than they would be in the wild and repeatedly. This causes stress on the mothers and babies. Some mothers do not survive the birth or die shortly after and some babies are never healthy and die young.

The book also goes into great detail about Keiko the whale who starred in Free Willy. Keiko was trapped in a tiny tank in Mexico and was becoming sickly. After the movie came out a bunch of support came through and plans were made to free him from Mexico and release him back into his pod in Norway. What I never knew was the extent that Sea World tried to get their hooks into him and block his release. Sea World was low on whale sperm and they needed Keiko for their breeding program since the public now frowned on capturing whales in the wild.

In addition they had a vested interest in seeing the release plan fail because they didn't want anyone to get the idea that whales could be freed. Although they tried to block the plan, Keiko was released and died 17 months later, a fact they like to crow about. At lease Keiko got to experience the open ocean again and in fact swam over a thousand miles.

How much his poor treatment in Mexico ultimately contributed to his demise is still debated. In any case Sea World used the incident as a further point in their case that the it would be cruel to release the Orca's in their care.

When Sea World soured on taking in Keiko because of his unsightly skin condition acquired in Mexico they set their sites on what would become the world's next most known whale Tilikum who was residing up in Canada.

Another fact Sea World tried to keep under wraps was that Tilikum had killed his trainer Keltie Barnes which was why he was up for sale. Sea World was desperate to get breeding underway so they took him on even though they knew he was dangerous to humans.

People who worked at Sea World were told that if they got in the pool with Tilikum they would come out a corpse.

As for Keltie Barnes, everyone at Sea World liked to believe that her death was due to trainer error. In fact everyone who was injured by a whale was injured because of their own failing. It was never the whales fault because then Sea World would have to admit that it was too dangerous to work with them.

So through the years many trainers were injured sometimes even in front of spectators. When uncomfortable questions were asked a whole host of lies and covers up were scripted to convince the public that the whales were just peachy and in fact liked captivity better than being free.

The years go by. Many whales die, some very young, and Tilikum makes human kill number two, a homeless man who snuck into his tank at night. Sea World seems to deflect this PR nightmare because no one seems to really care because he was a drifter and was trespassing anyway.

The breeding program grows and is quite successful with Tilikum fathering many whales although inbreeding is becoming a bit of a problem.

Naomi Rose does what she can but fails to block the transfer. Lead trainer Dawn Brancheau goes over to Spain and helps set up the program along with some Sea World staff.

How Killer Whales Become Killers

While there she befriends a trainer named Alexis Martinez. Then comes the day that Sea World has to finally face the music because Dawn Brancheau is killed by Tilikum. Sea World's trainer error story won't tread water this time because Dawn was too revered. Instead they try to put forth the idea that her ponytail floated in Tilikum's mouth instead of eye witness reports that saw him grab her by the arm and yank her in.

Whatever the case Dawn has been killed violently and in front of the public.

Sea World is facing negative exposure like never before. One of the the fall outs from Dawn's death is an OSHA investigation which Sea World blocks at very turn by making trainers unavailable for interviews and refusing to turn over requested documentation.

In the past Sea World has been able to pressure lawmakers into making investigations go away. They even got then California governor Arnold Swarzenegger to exert his political pressure to their advantage. This time if they hope to get their trainers back into the water with the whales they will have to go to court.

PETA also throws their hat into the legal ring in an effort to free the whales now numbering in Spain. Things have gotten quite critical there because the whales tanks are falling apart and a whale named Keto has killed Dawn Brancheaus friend Alexis Martinez on Christmas Eve. That was another trainer death Sea World was desperate to cover up. While the court case rages on scientists, journalists, former trainers, and animal activists unite to carry the fight on. They formed a group called super pod 2 and you can learn more about their mission here.

It is quite clear that Sea World intends to carry on it's show while pushing for expansion into China. Whatever it takes to keep their bottom line and the death of a beloved trainer hasn't seemed to make so much as a dent in their business. Until the public says enough and affects the revenue stream of Sea World they will keep on keeping on. Thankfully the whales have champions like Naomi Rose who is a true hero and Jeff Ventre and many others who are dedicating their lives to free cetaceans from captivity.

No matter what your stance on the issue is I challenge everyone to read this book. It was incredibly eye opening. I hope that I get to see these animals in the wild where they belong in my lifetime. The best course of action would be for Sea World to suspend their breeding program and to move the whales that they have in captivity into sea pens where they can at least have room to swim.

After their tireless efforts to ensure our entertainment it is at the very least what they deserve. Lolita's plight is of special concern to me since I live so close to her and her tank is the smallest.

She is also isolated and this social, intelligent creature does not have the company of even one other whale. David Kirby's book has made me a convert. I hope to be able to join in in some of the work being done to free Lolita.

This review is the longest I have ever written but this book saddened and enraged me. Even though my review is so long there is so much of the story I haven't even touched on. I urge everyone to read David Kirby's expose of the marine mammal display industry. Ever wonder why Sea World names all their Orcas Shamu? Because they don't want the public to know how often they kill "Shamu".

The original Shamu only lived to be six years old!

Shame on them. View all 3 comments. Jun 01, Susan rated it it was amazing Shelves: Well, I guess the one thing I can say about this book is that it opened up a whole new world for me. Truthfully, I never gave whales much of a thought. I have never been to Sea World, and I may have seen a whale show only a couple of times at a smaller aquarium or zoo. Also Well, I guess the one thing I can say about this book is that it opened up a whole new world for me. Also, I had never heard any of the media coverage on trainers being killed or injured.

Reluctantly, I started reading. What really struck me with this book is the intelligence of whales, and their family structure. I found that part of the book the most interesting.

The author went in depth covering whales in the wild and in captivity. I learned more than I ever thought I would know, and I was really fascinated with it. I have come to the conclusion that I think it is tragic to keep this huge mammals in captivity, to be kept in too small of enclosures and making them perform. The descriptions of the capture of taking a wild whale away from its family was so horrible; it seems like a type of animal slavery. This was a very thought provoking book.

I have lost any desire I ever had to go to Sea World, but now there is nothing more that I would like to do than see these magnificent creatures in the wild. That is something to put on my bucket list. I won this book through the Goodread's First Reads program.


Slice this book in half and you've got all the information you're going to get from David Kirby's collection of accounts and arguments against captivity of whales. The rest was biography of a handful of people, which was not what I signed up for when I picked to read this book. I wanted to read about whales, not about Dr.

Naomi Rose's time researching. Pages devoted to recounting people's histories bored me. Outside of his biographical narrative of the humans, most of his arguments were redundan Slice this book in half and you've got all the information you're going to get from David Kirby's collection of accounts and arguments against captivity of whales.

Outside of his biographical narrative of the humans, most of his arguments were redundant. At least twice per chapter, or so it felt, Kirby felt it necessary to point out the drastic difference in life expectancy of wild vs captive orcas. There were also editing errors that seemed to have been missed in my ebook version as well.

His writing left much to be desired. There are good points raised in this book, so please don't think I support the captivity industry nor that I'm giving this book two of five stars for its stance. Death at Seaworld: Description Death at SeaWorld centres on the battle with the multimillion-dollar marine park industry over the controversial and even lethal ramifications of keeping killer whales in captivity.

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Following the story of Naomi Rose, a marine biologist and animal advocate at the Humane Society of the U. Kirby puts that horrific animal-on-human attack in context. Brancheau's death was the most publicised among several brutal attacks that have occurred at Sea World and other marine mammal theme parks. His argument is, for the most part, fair and persuasive We probably can't free the orcas in captivity today, but we could make the current group of captive killer whales the last.

Hard to put down. Reads like a thriller and horrifies like Hannibal Lector. Free Willy, indeed. It has helped change and educate the public about orcas in captivity. Free Willy, indeed. Done like a true novelist Definitely a five star review and a two thumbs up. It's about time it was written. This riveting read is not one that will easily be dismissed.

He has successfully refuted the arguments put forth by the pro-captivity advocates.The second big chunk of the book is following Jeff, a "trainer" at SeaWorld. Google "The Orca Project" and you'll have most, if not all the information presented in this book.

I will never again look at whales the same way, and I will probably never again pay to support whales in captivity for entertainment. Well, ignorance really is bliss. This covers almost all of the history of orca-capturing from the late 60s til the present day, and includes the full story of Keiko free Willy , which I hadn't really followed, and the injury and deaths of SeaWorld trainers, as well as following the story of Dr.

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