SeaWorld Trainer’s Autopsy Report Indicates Tilly Wasn’t Playing

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SeaWorld Trainer’s Autopsy Report Indicates Tilly Wasn’t Playing

By Heather Moore on Care2.com
April 2010

“These were not love bites, but the vented fury of an angry and frustrated being who has been deprived of everything in life: family, friends, freedom—all for the sake of human profit and a few giggles.”

Although a judge ruled that the video footage showing Tilly the orca attacking SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau won’t be made public, Brancheau’s autopsy report was released recently--and it sure doesn’t sound like Tilly was playing when he grabbed her by the ponytail and pulled her under water.

According to the six-page report, Brancheau's left arm and part of her scalp were ripped off, she suffered spinal cord injuries, her ribs were broken, as were bones in her legs, arms, and face, she had bruises and cuts all over her body, and, ultimately, she was drowned.

This sounds more like an act of rage than an attempt at “play” gone wrong. As PETA President Ingrid Newkirk says, “These were not love bites, but the vented fury of an angry and frustrated being who has been deprived of everything in life: family, friends, freedom—all for the sake of human profit and a few giggles.”

Orcas may not have the same sense of revenge that humans do—and Tilly may not have premeditated the attack—but it’s not unusual for animals in circuses, zoos, travelling exhibits, and amusement parks to injure or kill the people who deprive them of everything that is natural and important to them. And can you really blame them?

As I pointed in my previous post about the attack at SeaWorld [Revenge At SeaWorld: Orca Attack Shouldn’t Come As Any Surprise], Tilly’s action shouldn’t have come as any surprise. Not only was he involved in two other deaths, the tank he was kept in was a virtual bathtub in comparison to his natural ocean home. (Performance artist Brian Feldmann even held an 18-hour tub-in to symbolize the 18 long years that Tilly has spent in captivity.)

While Tilly still has an innate instinct to kill, he is a mere shadow of an orca—unable to swim for miles and miles, hunt, choose a mate, socialize with other members of a pod, and communicate via echolocation.

The only thing that people learn by visiting a SeaWorld theme park is that it is acceptable to yank marine mammals from their natural habitats and imprison them in manmade environments that bare little resemblance to their ocean homes.

If you haven’t already done so, please sign the Care2 petition asking SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment President Jim Atchison to relocate Tilly to a sea pen.. After nearly three decades in captivity, it would be unwise to release him directly into the open ocean, but a sea pen would allow him to enjoy a more natural environment.