Monday, October 28, 2013

Black Beauties

Killer whales.

If you have known me at any point in my life longer than about 20 minutes, you probably learned of my deep love for this animal. For as long as I can remember killer whales have decorated my life. My school folders, clothing, and bedroom walls have displayed whales. One of the best presents I ever got was a complete killer whale bedspread (thanks mom!), which I kept until the seams gave out.

Circa 2009. Me with Tilikum at SeaWorld Orlando.
Circa 2008. Yes, my dress has whales on it!

In school I never passed up an opportunity to write a report on whales. This lasted all the way into college where I so cleverly convinced my editors to let me write a piece on the resident killer whale pods in the Puget Sound for our next issue. The issue's theme was "colors" and I still managed to convince them that my story was relevant because of the whale's unique color and countershading... Honestly, the theme could have been "outer space" and I still probably would have tried to get a whale story in there. Read my story here

Earlier this year one of my biggest dreams came true. I got a job at the place where I first fell in love killer whales. I have loved this job more than I ever could have imagined. As an educator, I get to talk to guests every day about my favorite animal and tell them what they can do to help protect the species in the wild. And get paid! How great is that? Every once and a while I'll have a young girl walk up to me and ask, "How do you get a job here?" Every time I reply I see myself in that little girl's eyes and remember the numerous times I asked that question to educators and trainers myself.


Last week CNN aired a documentary called Blackfish, which was made to display the negative side of killer whales living in a zoological environment. Knowing the documentary was very controversial and not supportive of my place of work, I still decided to see the film when it came to select theaters this summer.

Friends and readers, if you have seen the film or plan to, I ask that you remember that this is one side of a story and many facts are taken out of context or are inaccurate. I do not seek to change anyone's opinion. My only hope, because of my love for these animals, is that you seek know the whole story.

The film pushes viewers to stop supporting SeaWorld and other marine parks that are home to killer whales. Many supporting organizations such as PETA and The Humane Society of the United States are asking for donations and signatures for petitions to end the presence of whales in a zoological environment.

The worst part of this film is not the negative attention it is putting on marine parks, but the fact that it takes attention away from the things that are most hurting these animals. Whales, dolphins, seals, sea lions and other marine life face serious threats everyday because of how we as humans have treated and continue to treat our ocean. Overfishing, oil spills, toxic runoff and pollution continue to take the lives of these beautiful creatures. Even killer whales, who have no natural predators, are not safe from the harmful chemicals that make their way to the ocean. This is where these animals need our support.

Watching the whales in the Puget Sound in 2010
While films like Blackfish focus on a small group of whales, sensationalize a terrible tragedy and blame one organization for disrespecting the complex species that is the killer whale, I ask you to remember that this film was made to make money. So many beneficial discoveries have come from what we have learned from interacting with killer whales and yet none are mentioned in the film.

Why I love whales so much I really do not know but as other whale lovers may relate, there is just something about the animal that speaks to your soul. I am so proud to work for company that, despite the negative light in the current media, continues to hold education and conservation at it's core. It is because of places like this that we as humans can experience the beautiful undersea world that covers 70% of our planet and see the beauty that moves us to fight to protect it.

Please enjoy the links below. Form your own opinion. Support what you believe in. 

Sea World responds to Blackfish - CNN interview

Hubbs-Sea World Research Institute - Sea World's non-profit research programs

Pacific Whale Foundation - Help protect threatened marine life

Ocean Conservancy - Support the health of our ocean


2 comments:

  1. I love what you wrote- I refuse to watch CNN now because they have backed Blackfin- I have seen it and even as someone who doesn't work as an animal trainer I can see the extreme hate these film makers had - I don't see other films being made about other unfortunate instances with animals and their trainers- oh, and jealous of your job!

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  2. Thank you for writing this! I am a lifelong SeaWorld passmember and supporter and I definitely share the love for the animals you do. It's important, more now than before, for us to stand for what we believe and continue to do what has always been to benefit our planet and its inhabitants. Keep up the good work! The animals and our world depend on it.

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