First, my deepest condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Dawn Brancheau. She was clearly a dedicated and well loved person and she will be missed by many.
I’ve been following a lot of the stories and commentary about this latest incident of a captive orca’s killing a human trainer. Not surprisingly, that leads to having thoughts of my own.
I used to have a strong aversion to orcas, or killer whales. When I was 9 years old, I went to see a movie called Orca, a thriller. My one enduring image from the film is of a large orca surging up onto a beach, trying to grab some human(s) there. We left the movie before it was over because it was so terrifying to us. I have also once been to SeaWorld in Florida, around the same time, and seen a killer whale show, though I don’t honestly remember much about it. I knew just about nothing about the reality of orcas.
Then, as an adult with a growing interest in and passion for whales, I finally picked up a book (that I had passed over multiple time before) called “Listening to Whales: What the Orcas Have Taught Us” by Alexandra Morton. This is a highly engaging and accessible book which demystified orcas for me and made them much more intriguing animals. They were no longer in my head as mindless, vicious killers, but as intelligent, complicated animals. Part of the book talks about how she started by working in marine parks and then moved to study orcas in the wild as she became increasingly uncomfortable with the idea and practice of orcas in captivity. Continue Reading »