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Orca Attacks: Animal Expert Comments

Animal attacks occur daily but it is the unusual ones that capture the interest of the public. Animal expert Diana L. Guerrero comments on orca attack and specifically captive killer whale attacks.

Captive wildlife, zoo animals or exotic or domestic pets escape and attack. Visit the animal attack links here or get other animal attack comments in the breaking news area (offsite) specifically for journalists and producers.

Animal Expert Comments on Orca Attacks
(Captive Killer Whale Attacks)

In November of 2006 a captive killer whale kept a trainer submerged during a training session. The orca apparently grabbed the foot of the man and kept him under. Although you don't hear too much about captive orca attacks, they do occur. The smaller incidents get overlooked but this recent incident occurred and made headline news--another orca attack at Sea World

Why do captive orcas attack? Everyone speculates but nobody really knows. We seem to dismiss the notion that the magnificent killer whale is a predator. Big animals can hurt you in a number of ways--animal people acknowledge that as an occupational hazard.

Animals usually have a reason they "go off" even though it takes humans a while to surmise why. I've seen an orca get pissed off at the trainers and come onto the stage after them. Sometimes it is frustration--maybe the cue for the behavior was off--or the reinforcement was not what the animal anticipated, perhaps it is hormonal, or an attempt to attract attention, or even manipulate.

Some deny that such behavior are not attacks hypothesizing that if the orca did attack, the person would be dead. Aggression is aggression, just because an animal has not been successful in maiming or killing you doesn't mean that the animal didn't attack. I've lost too many friends and seen to many incidences to support that naive statement.

Ultimately, when you are working with wild animals you are taking risks. Animals might be amiable to humans but they are also true to their wild nature. People tend to forget that and want to think of these majestic creatures akin to pals. Even pets bite and scratch but most people don't want to take a closer look at dog bites and other altercations ...still at epidemic levels.

My personal negative dolphin tank experience in a foreign county was due to an error in judgment on the part of the head trainer . When I told the assistant trainer to pull me out (when I sensed and experienced low level aggression) he did not react. Luckily, I didn't get pushed under but it could have been ugly. We analyzed the situation and figured out why the altercation occurred and wouldn't you know it, it was the head trainer who made an error and created the problem. In most cases, animals telegraph aggression in advance, in some cases they will use humans as tools, or react unexpectedly. In my case, I was a tool.

Many years later, emergency protocols to handle such incidents remain poor in many establishments. Just how to you handle a out-of-control orca? It is a tough challenge to address in an aquatic environment with the size, agility, and strength of an orca...did the trainer have an air tank on?

From what I understand, Kasaka had previously exhibited "unwanted behaviors" which leads me to believe that she was exhibiting low level aggression well in advance. The incident has passed and I hope that park management and staff pay closer attention to low levels of aggression in the future since it is critical to mitigate attacks and incidents.

California Industrial Relations Department's Occupational Safety and Health Division completed an investigation into the incident which said that swimming with captive orcas “is inherently dangerous and if someone hasn't been killed already it is only a matter of time before it does happen.”

People have died from orca attacks and swimming with them in captivity already even so Mike Scarpuzzi (vice-president) of Sea World denied the possibility. In response to "dialog" with Sea World, Cal-OSHA is actually withdrawing the original report and rewriting it.

Potpourri of Orca Incident Articles & Videos

Not all orca incidents make it to public lists. When I worked at Marineland a female trainer was held down until she was unconscious. This old orca incident video looks like it was done at the old Marineland facility. The woman is not a trainer but an employee of the park.

CNN on the 2006 Orca Attack

Time Magazine Comments on the 2006 Orca Incident

2004 Sea World Killer Whale Attack

2004 Killer Whale Attack with Videos

Animal Rights Group Comments on 2004 Killer Whale Incident

Cal-OSHA recommends (video)...

Only a matter of time...

Whale Attack...

Shamu at Sea World (The attacking whale's real name was Kasaka, the dominant female.)

Kasaka had smaller previous "unwanted behaviors"

A similar aggressive orca incident was said to have occurred 2-3 weeks previously.

Frontline produced a program called, "A Whale of a Business" and looked into the captive whale issue. Read pros and cons...

This hobbyist site includes some orca attacks...

Bureau of Labor Animal Attack Statistics

Finally, this odd site has been collecting animal attack incidents for years


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