The Remarkable Concluding Testimony of Former SeaWorld Animal Handler Cynthia Payne
Animal Rights Article from

From Voice of the Orcas
August 2013

[Ed. Note: Also read Meet Cynthia Payne: Another former SeaWorld Staffer Comes Forward after Blackfish]

"I don’t believe in favorites, but Gudrun tugged at my heart. She seemed to possess a sadness of the soul, unlike anything I had ever seen. Gudrun was named after the boat that captured her. I felt that this explained everything."

Preface for PART TWO: Cynthia Payne is a former SeaWorld animal care handler and current president of a company in North Carolina called Go Green, Inc, which she founded in 2007. She's lived in Holland & Germany and is an accomplished equestrian rider. After watching Blackfish, she reached out to us, at Voice of the Orcas, with this moving testimony. This is the rather shocking conclusion of her story.

Cynthia was employed by SeaWorld, in Orlando, from 1992 to 1994, and told us, "I truly, truly cared for the animals and admired several of the people I worked with and for, but I also recognized it was wrong." Cynthia adds her voice to ours, and to a growing number of former industry workers, and citizens, who are speaking out against companies who display intelligent, self-aware creatures for human amusement. We welcome her strong voice, and thanks again, Cynthia.

I don’t believe in favorites, but Gudrun tugged at my heart. She seemed to possess a sadness of the soul, unlike anything I had ever seen. Gudrun was named after the boat that captured her. I felt that this explained everything.

She was known to us as, "The difficult whale."

Cynthia Payne SeaWorld Blackfish
Gudrun with her young daughter Taima. Gudrun was collected in 1976 & named after the ship that collected her. SeaWorld personnel were on that ship. She was traded from the Dolfinarium Harderwijk to SeaWorld (1987) on a breeding loan. She survived 19 years in captivity (7089 days) and died of "Bacteremia" after a stillborn calf was winced out of her uterus in1996. Her daughter, Taima, died after 7635 days in captivity, at age 21, from "Acute Uterine Prolapse," in 2010.

Gudrun gave birth to Nyar [on 12/31/1993] while [I was working] in the park. Nyar was sick and her own mother, Gudrun, tried to kill her. Standing in Shamu Stadium, one could feel the misery of Gudrun. Her calf, Nyar, had multiple health issues. We had to draw blood on a regular basis from this calf until she died at the early age of two [on 4/1/1996 of suppurative encephalitis, which is a pus infection of the brain. She lived 827 days in captivity].

Nyar’s tail flukes (the last time I assisted) looked like a heroin addict, tracks everywhere from the constant barrage of needles.

In animal care, we referred to severely injured dolphins and whales that could not right themselves in the water as a “beachies list” [animal]. This was Nyar, always listing in the water with her head tilted to one side. Nyar died at such a young age. Upon hearing the news, long gone from SeaWorld, again, I felt relief.

However, Gudrun was not the only one to injure her own calf.

Movie Note: Nyar is in Blackfish. There is a segment where former trainer Dean Gomersall is being interviewed about a new show, and there is a screen within a screen. On the smaller screen, John Jett PhD is swimming in A pool, of Shamu Stadium, SWF, using an underwater prop-driven scooter device. The small whale in the footage is Nyar.

Cynthia Payne SeaWorld Blackfish
Gudrun was unique as her dorsal fin was remarkably straight. For reference, 100% of captive male orcas have collapsed fins, and most of the adult females. Her straight dorsal fin made her an ideal animal for photo opportunities (good PR). In her last gestational period, prior to her death (1995-1996) she was frequently slid up into the shallows so park guests could stroke her fin, and SeaWorld would then sell the photos back to the tourists. These extended 10-15 minute dry sessions likely lead to the death of her calf in February 1996. After the calf died, she did not pass it. This lead to the Animal Care department wincing out the dead baby using a chain around it's peduncle. This resulted in a prolonged bleed out and infection of Gudrun. She died 4 days later. Details of this can be found in David Kirby's book, Death at SeaWorld, which has entered its 3rd printing at the time of this article.

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