First, I want to thank everyone who participated in the captive orca/captive wildlife poll.
I must admit that the results surprised me and the result is a more comprehensive series of commentary on the Tilikum orca incident.
Ever since the trainer Dawn Brancheau was killed by the orca Tilikum, I’ve been involved in a lot of discussions about the incident with people from all walks of life.
For those of you who are new to this blog, I’ve been in my animal career for over 30 years. The important things for you to know?
My viewpoints tend to be based on personal experience which includes
- first hand knowledge about animals,
- academic background in the study of animals, animal behavior, animal management and animal training,
- plus practical background with a wide variety of wild animals in captivity and some in the wild.
Why do I bring this up? So it is clear that I don’t have a lot of naive ideas or uninformed opinions about topics such as this one.
Visceral knowledge is what some have called it.
There have been some really irresponsible comments made on this incident.
An “expert’ tends to be someone the mainstream media labels and that has related expertise but not necessarily the specific expertise needed to comment on the situation.
Although I respect and enjoy the works by some of the whale experts that have given commentaries–they have never worked with captive wildlife and those animals are different critters from their wild counterparts.
I’ve been an observer of captive wildlife including orcas and the first time one asked me to rub its tongue, well–it was a bit daunting because they have big teeth.
Am I an orca expert?
No, but I am an wild animal behavior and training veteran and one that has seen more attacks in my career–more than I care to share and more than most other trainers will ever see because the facilities I was at worked closely with predators and large animals–and it is an occupational hazard and perhaps a numbers game.
So, preventing animal incidents and looking closely at them is a hobby because my goal is to work to understand what might contribute to them and to mitigate them–which is why I was contributing editor to Resources for Crisis Management in Zoos & Other Animal Care Facilities and why I still tend to monitor animal incidents.
Okay, so you understand the unique background I bring to the table. But also you need to know that
- I don’t maintain an animal collection,
- Am not employed by an animal facility with a gag order,
- and I don’t any agenda of another sort.
Ultimately, this is why I happen to think I bring some valuable assessments when it comes to taking a look at issues such as this one.
Everyone has an opinion and people are entitled to their own viewpoints and I have found it to be an interesting process.
It isn’t about being right or wrong and it doesn’t mean that we have to agree or even agree with opposing viewpoints BUT it is important to get some facts and information before making a conclusion–and a lot of conclusions on this matter are based on emotion or false beliefs.
The thing about this type of topic is that it is raises a moral question and one that has little to do with the reality of what is.
It also has little to do with what may or may not happen, or what should or should not happen.
What strikes me first off is how many people are arrogant and self-righteous about the topic.
There are a lot of people spew their opinions on others when it comes to certain topics.
This contributes to an “us and them” model or the “I’m right, you’re wrong” judgments and doesn’t do anyone a lot of good.
Nor does it do any good for the animal involved, Tilikum.
So I want to be clear on this one.
- Anyone can have an opinion but it doesn’t make him/her right.
- Anyone can be really vocal about that opinion but it doesn’t mean he/she is in the majority.
Also, I want you to start taking a look at WHO is spouting the opinions.
That is where it gets interesting.
Alright, this is a big topic and it is going to take a few different posts to cover the territory I want.
First, let’s look at an overview of what I want to discuss:
- Captive Orca Poll Results
- Orca Incident & Orcinus orca
- Mainsteam Media Commentaries
- Animal Rights
- Animal Facility
- Animal Trainer
- Animal Rehabilitation
- Environmental Issues
- Legal Issues
- Moral Issues
Anything else you think I am missing? Let me know in the comments and I’ll consider it.