Unit 2: “The Killer in the Pool” Reading Response

Get the discussion on this article started by posting your reading response here. Please remember that you will need to post your response and then read other students' responses and post a reply.

killer-whale-killsIn this essay, Tim Zimmerman admits,"There's a lot of criticism back and forth between SeaWorld and the hard-marine science community, but there's no question that SeaWorld's close contact with killer whales over the course of decades has contributed to the world's knowledge of them" (344).  Later, he quotes the president of the Ocean Futures Society, who said, "Maybe we have learned all we can from keeping them (killer whales) captive?" (349)

Start the discussion off by considering the price we are willing to pay for scientific discovery?  Is it worth it?  When is it reasonable to say enough is enough?

Write your in a comment to this page.

44 thoughts on “Unit 2: “The Killer in the Pool” Reading Response

  1. Matthew Wetherington

    Wow, I have to say this was a very engaging reading assignment. Starting off with the terrible and gruesome death of a highly experienced SeaWorld trainer, it continued with going back in time to the first captures of orcas, and then began to talk about the particular killer orca of this story Tillikum; how his life experiences led him to doing what he did. Finishing with how SeaWorld is now operating after the death of this trainer, and a reflection on how the killer whales live in the wild. I think overall, this short story did a remarkable job at not only explaining the conditions that would cause Tilikum, the killer whale, to go into such a violent rage; but also how showing the sadder side to capturing and keeping these animals in captivity. I find it very interesting too, how those who are in SeaWorld and supposedly the most interested in making scientific discoveries, are also somehow, not the ones working with the creatures in person. It honestly appears that companies like SeaWorld will capture orcas under the claim of an Educational-Display exclusion, but are far more interested in the millions of dollars they make, regardless to the human and animal sacrifice. In my opinion, I don’t think senselessly killing both orca and human is worth the scientific discovery; however, this is really on the trainers and marine biologists that want to participate in learning more about these creatures. I do believe there would be those who are willing to die, so that others can learn more about these creatures. As to saying enough is enough, this is all on the company, if they, and their employees deem the research greater than life itself, then they can go right ahead. For me, it would stop at the exploitation of life for profit, I don’t think any business should be okay with allowing death so they can make more dollars.

    1. Emily J. Nerbonne

      I really like the comment you put in your response about how the companies seem way more interested in the revenue they get from the creatures, than the actual creatures and the trainers who worked with the killer whales. That is something that stuck with me while I read that essay. On page 334, it says, “In the fourteen years before his arrival (Tilikum’s arrival), seven orcas had died under Sealand’s care. Their average survival time was just shy of three and a half years.” That sentence right there reveals to you just how those orcas were treated in those entertainment parks. They weren’t cared for like they should have been. These were the animals they were researching for scientific discovery and they just treated them like show animals. If they died, the companies just rounded up more orcas and hauled them in to showoff to the crowds. The companies and researchers should have been more invested in the lives of creatures they were research, not just the money they were making. Thank you for making that point in your response.

    2. Angelina Lund

      I really agree with everything you said and like how you worded it. I especially like where you mention how it is up to the company to say whether enough is enough. This is very true. I also agree that this reading was very engaging from beginning to end. I could not put it down.

  2. Emily J. Nerbonne

    ‘Since the 1960s there have been more that forty documented incidents at marine parks around the world……”There were so many incidents. If you show fear or go home hurt, you might be put on the bench.” ‘ (Pg. #342)
    This essay starts off by retelling the gruesome death of Dawn Brancheau, a highly skilled killer whale trainer, by the killer whale Tilikum. This death was only one of many that have occurred in marine parks. That story and the passage above emphasize the dangers of working with killer whales in the hopes of scientific discovery.
    After the writer retells the story, he goes into the details on how the world got started in the killer whale industry. He goes through the history of people capturing whales and how they got started in the “show business” of killer whales. To finish that subject off, he describes the capture of Tilikum. Next, he goes into details on how the whales were trained, how the whales were kept, and how the whales were treated. The writer goes deeper into the lives of the whales by showing how the captivity they were in messed with the whales metal stability. “They basically run it like a McDonalds,” said Eric Walters. “It just can’t be good for an animal that is so intelligent to do the same thing every day.” (Pg. #335) That is how a former Sealand trainer described Sealand. Tim Zimmerman, the writer of the essay, retrieves information on how the way the whales were kept could very well have been the cause of all the incidents that happened to all those people. Many scientists and discoverers are willing to put these wild, intelligent animals in small enclosures for the hopes of learning as much as they can about marine life. Though with all these captures, they are subjecting these animals to lives they weren’t meant to live. These killer whales are captured and shown off to entertain people, but they aren’t given the same necessities they have while free. Therefore, accidents occur and dangers arise. The price of wanting to learn more has to be paid, and the price has turned out to be many people’s lives. Tilikum was described in the essay to be “psychotic” because of the treatment he received while in captivity. Ultimately, researchers are saying that the price of learning as much as they can from these animals is the safety of all those people who work with them and the lives of those who have already died. There is no fault in wanting to learn more about the creatures around us, but there is fault in doing it the wrong way.
    While I read this essay, I was quite saddened by the stories of the whales and by how they were treated. I admit that when the writer retold the story of Dawn Brancheau’s death, I started to cry a little. Many people want to be oblivious to the reality of what goes on behind the scenes, just like the people who watch the SeaWorld shows. This story drew out the actuality of the lives of those creatures that entertain us. It showed what the scientists were willing to do to learn more and show the world more about killer whales. One would think that they would learn their lesson that enough was enough after people had died, but as it turns out, they still haven’t decided they know enough. For me, I feel like we do know enough about these marine creatures, and for the lives lost and for the incidents that have occurred, I feel that the creatures should not be treated the way they are. The price of all those people lives and the potential lives is not worth keeping up this industry. At one point in the book, the writer gets in touch with Ken Balcomb, a marine biologist, who has observed killer whale along the coast of Washington State. This man knows a great deal about killer whales, but he didn’t need to capture them to learn about them. That is proof for me that you don’t need to capture killer whales, subject them to the harsh lives, to learn more about them. There are other ways we can learn about marine life, and I really wish that scientist would start researching those ways so that human and marine life wouldn’t be the price of research.

    1. Angelina Lund

      You make all very good points in your response. I agree that we should learn from Ken Balcomb and other marine biologist who dont risk lives of humans or marine life. They learn from the most obvious way possible, observing the marine life in their nature habitat. I also agree that Sealand and other Marine parks are capturing killer whales for entertainment and money. After Tilikum was named ” psychotic” he should not have been able to perform with humans. It is not the captured mammals fault. I feel the Marine parks were warned enough times that these creatures dont like routine. They get bored and will create their own fun. This essay I felt was heartwrenching, very informative and I wish more people would read it. Very well written response.

  3. Cassandra Lane

    I was a little apprehensive of reading this essay at first but once I started reading it, I could not stop. The first story that Tim Zimmerman retells is about the grisly death of Dawn Brancheau by the killer whale Tilikum was so descriptive, it really captures the reader’s attention. Dawn Brancheau was a very experienced and trusted trainer. His retelling of events that led to not just Brancheaus death but also Keltie Byrne and Daniel Dukes really captured my attention as to the treatment of these animals and had me asking why this happened multiple times with the same Killer Whale, Tilikum? Why was attention not paid to the fact that this Killer Whale had killed once, then twice and finally a third time? How many people must die before this treatment stops?
    Tim Zimmerman’s style of writing captures the attention of the targeted audience and keeps it for the entire essay. His essay was written in a way that was easy to follow. There was plenty of information but not so much that it would bore the reader. I found myself wanting to learn more about Killer Whales and other animals in captivity, how they are treated and find out how to help the animals. The writer talks most about Tilikum and how his life was after being captured because he is the center of each of the death’s. First with Byrne, then Brancheau and finally with Daniel Dukes. SeaLand in Canada was not properly equipped or educated to handle one Killer Whale, let alone 3. The mistreatment of all 3 of these whales led to the first death of Byrne. After their transfer to SeaWorld, it appears that SeaWorld did not heed the warnings before them. Tilikum was dangerous. He was an older whale, likely set in his ways. Brancheau’s death could have been avoided if proper precautions were taken. After reading about Tilikum up until the death of Daniel Dukes, it got me thinking: What happened to Tilikum after these events? A quick google search revealed a National Geographic article by Tim Zimmerman in 2016 stating that Tilikum was dying (Zimmerman, 2016). Further search revealed that Tilikum, at an estimated age of 35 years old, in fact died early this year, January 6, 2017 according to CNN news (Sanchez, 2017). A sad end to Tilikum’s life but I think that a lot was learned about Killer Whales from Tilikum. Whales need space to roam, they need their pods, their families, and their freedoms. This is not an animal that can live caged up forever.
    I do agree with this writer’s point of view. I never thought much about how these animals were captured for people’s viewing before reading this essay. I have taken my children to a few aquariums and zoo’s over the past few years and it has always been fascinating watching the animals and my children’s reactions to seeing the animals. After reading Tim’s essay, I do not feel right about visiting these aquariums and zoo’s. Reading about the way that Don Goldsberry and Ted Griffin captured the Killer Whales completely mortified me. They are a living, breathing creature and should not be treated the way these two did just to make a buck. Whales are large creatures who need plenty of space, but for the sake of science, they were captured and treated like prisoners, no more than a common criminal. I can completely understand the capture and subsequent release so that scientists can observe their behaviors. I can understand if the whales were injured, medically treated and then released back into their natural habitat where they belong. However, Goldsberry and Griffin didn’t do that. They captured these whales more so for the money and entertainment factor and unknowing and unquestioning citizens paid their money to view these spectacles that later turned deadly. I do not think that it is right for them to continue capturing otherwise healthy Killer Whales just for the sake of entertainment. Zimmerman quoted the president of the Ocean Futures Society, who said, “Maybe we have learned all we can from keeping them (killer whales) captive?” (349) and I would have to whole heartedly agree with this. Enough is enough.

    Sanchez, R. (2017, January 6). Killer Whale at center of “Blackfish” dies. Retrieved from CNN: https://www.cnn.com/2017/01/06/us/sea-world-orca-tilikum-dies/index.html
    Zimmerman, T. (2016, March 10). Tilikum, SeaWorld’s Killer Orca, Is Dying. Retrieved from National Geographic: https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/03/160310-tilikum-killer-whale-orca-death-seaworld-sick-dying/
    Zimmerman, T. (l2011). The Killer in the Pool. In M. Roach, The Best American Science and Nature Writing (pp. 329-350). Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

    1. Erin Dodds

      That’s awesome that you did further research on the topic! Poor Tilikum!
      I also agree with you that Tilikum’s treatment was horrendous. But it also makes you think, like Zimmermann pointed out at the end of his story, maybe the very treatment Tilikum had undergone had caused his psychotic behavior.
      And furthermore, the story makes me think that if people really are ignorant to how killer whales were captured and treated, and vilified by the media when the incidents occured, what else are we missing? And not just with animals, with people. What stories are we ignoring about criminals that could explain their behavior? Why are we so quick to punish others, even for horrendous acts, before looking deeper at the underlying issues? Before looking at punishments, why do we not find the cause and try to heal.
      Perhaps we as humans are just totally destructive beings.
      And maybe we deserve everything we get.

    2. Matthew Wetherington

      Very nice! You definitely addressed questions, even I had, also kudos for going outside this writing, to add additional information on Tilikum!

    3. Kristopher Dunkle

      As a further followup, SeaWorld announced in March last year that their orca breeding program is ended; this will be the last generation in captivity. They also announced the end of their orca shows over the next couple years.

      Seems like people agreed that enough is enough here.

    4. Jessica Mathews

      Great reading response, I agree with everything you have said wild animals should not be treated like criminals they should be free in the wild. treating them for small periods of time for medical research versus entertainment purpose would be the way to go or even viewing them from land.

  4. Angelina Lund

    I can understand people wanting to learn about wild creatures, their habits and their lifestyles but not at the price of a human life or the creatures life. Marine parks are in this business strictly for the money and entertainment while researchers who observe the creatures in their natural habitat are in it for the knowledge and for science. To me it seems like the research would be best in their natural surroundings so you can see them doing things that they would do in normal life. I do not feel like we are learning much from them when they are in a small pool, with toys and jumping around for our entertainment. I feel that Ken Balcomb and other researchers like him should be acknowledged more for observing the behaviors of these fascinating creatures from afar, not causing the loss of any lives and actually teaching us about the creatures. I can only imagine how scary it would be to one minute be in the Puget Sound swimming around with your family and the next minute being capture and put in tank where all of the things that were familiar to you are gone. ” If you pen killer whales in a small steel tank , you are imposing an extreme sensory deprivation on them,” said Paul Spong. ” Humans who are subjected to those same conditions become mentally disturbed.” (pg #337 ) I also find it disturbing that Don Goldsberry seems to have no remorse for all the creatures he captured and all the creatures he also killed along the way, just for the money. ” I had to make a living,” Don Goldsberry was quoted as saying. All of these stories and facts I feel were truly heartwrenching. I feel like the facts, the stories, and the lives taken speak for themselves but if people are not made aware of these, then they will keep going to the Seaworld shows and not know what is going on behind the scenes. ” For every incident the public was aware of, there were many more behind the scenes, ” said John Jett, a former trainor at Seaworld. If these are things that I knew were happening at my job, I dont care how much you pay me,I would quit and have to report it. Yes working with a Killer whale would be amazing, it would not be worth risking my life or the life of a fellow trainor.
    While all of us who read this essay would say that enough is enough, it unfortunately is not up to us. It is up to the people making the Millions of dollars a year and they are not going to give that up for anything

    1. Janelle

      Angelina, I agree with your response 100%. I am against any sort of animal research that includes taking an animal from their home to observe them in an artificial display that people can pay to see. It makes me not want to ever take my future kids to these theme parks despite the educational opportunity. I wouldn’t want them to think it is okay to take animals from their natural habitat and trap them in a place like seaworld or a zoo. Now days it seems like these theme parks are trying to make more money off of you by claiming that they rescue and help the population of these animals.

  5. Janelle

    A quote from “The Killer in the Pool” by Tim Zimmerman argues that, “If you pen killer whales in a small steel tank, you are imposing an extreme level of sensory deprivation on them” one long time researcher said. I would have to agree with this 100%, mammals are not meant to be taken out of their habitat. It would be like trying to take a human out of society and place him/her in a habitat of an animal.
    The lengths that are stretched and the risks that are taken just for a scientific discovery along with the money that comes with that discovery are extreme. I think it is great that the public can learn so much from SeaWorld or other wild life centers but I strongly believe that mammals need to remain in their own habitat. Not only is it cruel to take them away from their home but also dangerous for scientists and orca trainers like Brancheau and Bryne.
    This is a hard one because of the benefit to risk ratio of taking an orca or even any mammal at that from their natural habitat. I’d have to agree with Matthew Wetherington’s statement “For me, it would stop at the exploitation of life for profit, I don’t think any business should be okay with allowing death so they can make more dollars.”
    Enough is enough when lives are being put at risk. I believe there are better ways to learn about an animal than trapping them in a mini, makeshift habitat of their own for display to the public.

    1. Angelica Kougl

      I like how you compared abusing these killer whales by putting them in a habitat that is detrimental to their health to abusing humans in this way because that is exactly how I think of it. Nobody would think twice about whether or not these practices were immoral or wrong if we were put in place of those killer whales. We would never let them happen to our species because we would have a voice to speak out. These killer whales can’t speak our language to tell us what we are doing is wrong, so they are protesting in the only way they can: violence.

    2. Cassandra Lane

      “It would be like trying to take a human out of society and place him/her in a habitat of an animal.” I like this comparison. It is much like taking a criminal and putting them in a jail cell, most of which are rightfully thrown in prison away from the general public. “For the better of science” I do not believe to be a legitimate reason to imprison animals the way the Killer Whales were. And then the way they were captured prior to their imprisonment is enough to make me sick. They are taken from their families, mostly the children. I could not imagine someone taking my child away. It would literally be like ripping my heart from my chest.

  6. Angelica Kougl

    As an animal lover, this article was very engaging but also very hard to read. I cringed, for the lack of a better word, as I read about the amount of abuse and disrespect the killer whales were put through. The article began by telling the story of the disastrous death of SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau. She was a passionate human who seemed to love animals of all forms, and was even willing to be vulnerable and risk her safety in an effort to create a bond with the animals. But as I continued to read the article, the ugly truths behind the operations of SeaWorld were uncovered. Killer whales were captured unrightfully, they were kept in conditions detrimental to their physical and metal health, and they were neglected and abused. This made me wonder what SeaWorld truly believed was more tragic about Brancheau’s death: the loss of a human life, or the negative exposure SeaWorld received from the accident? It was clear that marine parks like SeaWorld and SeaLand were aware of the risks that came with keeping killer whales in captivity, and equally clear that they were willing to take those risks for the right price. I find it a little sick and twisted that Sealand manager Al Bolz responded to the death of one of their trainers with “I just can’t explain it” (336). How are these deaths a mystery? The facts are there in all caps and bold for Bolz, and he says he cannot explain why she died – that is humorous in the darkest most twisted way. I personally do not think the risks outweigh the scientific benefits in this situation, but what has happened cannot be undone. We have learned a lot about killer whales thanks to this tragic string of events. But I do think we should learn from our mistakes and be smart enough to know that no amount of information left to learn about killer whales is worth killing them, or ourselves, over.

    1. Cassandra Lane

      I had about the same reaction. The writing was engaging but horrifying to read about. It saddened me to read about how the killer whales were treated. They were treated like prisoners, no better than the common criminal which is truly disgusting. Animal cruelty in one of the most horrific ways in the name of science. Al Bolz saying he didn’t know why this happened is pathetic. They were told that they needed to do better and yet they didn’t. They didn’t heed any warnings. And SeaWorld should have learned from SeaLand’s mistakes but they pushed Tilikum. It was a tragic even that could have been avoided.

  7. Erin Dodds

    While reading “The Killer in the Pool” by Tim Zimmermann I was trying to figure out the author’s position on Tilikum’s actions. At first I thought the way he wrote the story, (the details of Tilikum’s capture, the story of Brancheau’s death and SeaWorld’s handling of it), reflected his distaste for the industry, but that wasn’t it at all. Zimmermann presented facts clearly and from many sources and perspectives so we as the audience could draw our own conclusions. Not only that, but this was a truly dramatic telling of a story that would normally have been a tragic news segment, making people say “oh no how horrible!” before going onto the next tragic news segment. I felt involved in this story in such a way that I felt sorrowful and angry while reading. The section describing Goldsberry making it big off of the capture, storage, and selling of killer whales was infuriating. And the description of typical life as an orca caused me to mourn Tilikum’s loss of family and pod, and mourn his captivity. Being able to bring out such strong emotions in your audience and also having the ability to present your data while staying neutral in your tone are hallmarks of a writer in the sciences.
    Now, I am one of those people who are of the opinion that if a person puts themselves in intentional danger, whether it be firefighting, in the armed forces, or training wild animals, I just cannot feel that badly about those deaths. Those careers are chosen by those people for various reasons, but also because they enjoy the risks associated with those careers; I enjoy playing the devil’s advocate. And I especially do not feel badly for people who are attacked by wild animals. If they are unprepared, that is on them. The animal is being an animal, and I cannot blame them for behaving in the way that they are expected to behave. There are a few instances in this story when Zimmerman quotes people saying Tilikum was acting “very wild” (332) or “Tilikum had never had an aggressive disposition” (347) or the laughable “these are not dogs” (344). To me, any animal that isn’t a dog or a human, (and I am NOT including all dogs or humans), is a wild animal and could kill or maim someone at any time. Thad Lacinak said it best when describing Brancheau’s death “one of the things we always talked about at SeaWorld was that you never want to get totally comfortable with any animal” (347). I suppose it is just in our nature as humans to believe that we can change or influence the behavior of other creatures just because we have feelings for those creatures.
    I suppose my ultimate query is, why we as a society find it perfectly acceptable to torture wildlife, expect them to perform for us and demonize them when we make the mistake of trusting them? And why would we not see the obvious schemes that companies like SeaWorld are running on us? Is it acceptable to basically enslave these animals and make money off of an ignorant audience, just so we have a little entertainment to distract us for a day? Can we ignore what was being done to Tilikum and say it is justified because we have learned details that will save so many more marine mammals? Does the end justify the means? Because I do not believe a scientific study on killer whale social habits was the means for these companies. I do not believe that SeaWorld has made up for anything it does to the animals it holds in captivity. SeaWorld is just like any other business and its goal is to make profit. After BP spilled oil in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, when everyone in America hated their company, they still ran an advertisement campaign and bribed their way to continue operating in the US. I can remember watching those commercials with the CEO of BP, Tony Hayward, and thinking how ridiculous “I’m deeply sorry” sounds. Sorry for the deaths of their employees, sorry for the deaths of the animals, but most of all sorry that this incident has cut into their profits.

    Zimmermann, Tim. “A Killer in the Pool”. The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2011. Ed. Mary
    Roach. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011. 329-350. Print.

    1. Matthew Wetherington

      Well done! I found your response very engaging, and really enjoyed your commentary! I liked how you pulled BP into this, as that example was a fitting choice for this.

  8. Juliette

    I agree the story has a way of drawing you in to the “thick of it”, making one feel like they are right there. I also felt like I was a part of the story and torn between the beauty and cruelness. I cannot even imagine what was going through the mind of all involved including Tilikum. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Juliette

    The Killer in the Pool
    By Tim Zimmermann

    I never once gave much thought to how it must feel to be taken away from all your family, home and security until this story. The story itself is one of tears and heartache for all involved including the so called “killer”.
    We made him a killer, Tilikum became psychotic by being held captive against his will. The idea that we finally drove an animal to the point of becoming a killer so that we could enjoy his beauty. It takes my breath away and makes my heart sad every time I think of it.
    I am very much a fan of the sea and my beloved dolphins, but sadly I never thought much of looking at them from a pool as a show. The idea of making us more in love with the sea and the creatures that inhabit it is a great idea, but where do you draw the line between a prisoner or a free animal?
    I can without a doubt reading the story can tell you that Ms. Brancheau would be the first one to say don’t blame Tili (Tilikum). I can say that without having ever met her by the fact that she loved the animals she worked with. The thought that she lay down in the shallow inches of water stroking him and talking softly shows the type of individual she was. But, she would have been the first to defend her beloved from harm, by saying these creatures were never meant to be captive.
    A killer whale can weigh up to 6 tons, the size of a bus…a BUS!! We treat these animals like pets that we can train and reward with treats. Imagine being kept in small round pool for the rest of your life, not big enough to spread your “wings” so to speak, but enough room to swim in circles, always on display for others to look at, poke, prod and never to see your family. Does this sound lovely to you?
    I think we can all agree that no matter how magnificent these animals are to view up close and personal they need to remain free.

    1. Thomas Vorderbruggen

      I like the way you brought the whale’s intelligence to light, remarking that they can be driven insane. I believe this to be true, as Zimmerman remarks several times on the astounding intellect of these creatures. It is a pity and a shame that something capable of emotion and thought would be driven to psychosis by the horrid conditions and environment it was forced to live in. I really makes you understand the drive behind activist groups such as greenpeace.

    2. Roger Vang

      Don Goldsberg and the aquarium owners didn’t see orcas as intelligent creatures with personalities. Research has shown that they want to be free like us. No animal, or person, enjoys being trapped in an enclosed space. I agree with you that Tilikum could have become mentally unstable due to captivity. I am sure he was trying to play with Ms. Brancheau like a toy, not kill her.

  10. Thomas Vordebruggen

    Reading Tim Zimmerman’s “The Killer In The Pool” was an emotional roller coaster and a half, from news account to news account, detailing various events and individuals that brought the Killer Whale entertainment industry to what it was today. Zimmerman did an excellent job of combining vivid imagery, proper ethos, and a variety of chronological events to produce an engaging read. For example, Zimmerman writes, “In 1999 Tilikum reminded the world that, at least when it came to humans, he could be a very dangerous animal.” (Pg. 346).
    This account and others like it drew a good picture of what we ought to assume when it comes to any wild animal, captive or not. Any animal, just like people, has the potential and nature to be dangerous and deadly. And this was the impression Zimmerman gave for a majority of the work. Killer whales are not to be underestimated, nor treated poorly, less deadly accidents occur. Personally I felt this was something of common sense, as did the individuals quoted in the work. For instance, a trainer, Jeffrey Ventre, was quoted as saying, “I’ve seen animals put trainers in their mouths and know exactly what the breaking point of a rib cage is. And how long to hold a trainer on the bottom.” (Pg 345).
    However, after establishing a clear portrait of the dangers and risks of captive whales, I feel like Zimmerman did a rather poor job of showing the other side of the spectrum. About three-fourths through the paper, Zimmerman begins to write about the theory considering that the Killer Whales were simply just not used to humans, and how they could actually just be proper, docile creatures given proper training. I felt as though this idea was introduced much too late in the paper to be effective, as at this point Zimmerman has already listed the cruelty and profit-hunting of the whale industry. Although I understand the necessity to show both sides of the story to avoid bias storytelling, I find it hard to believe that, at the point Zimmerman changes the viewpoint, any reader would not have already hardened themselves to despise Goldsberry and the entertainment industry built on the backs of suffering animals.
    With this in mind, it was hard to place what exactly Zimmerman’s intentions were in writing this paper. It seems to demonize companies such as Seaworld and Sealand for mistreating animals, but also praise them for the scientific and biological research possible from holding whales captive. Obviously one could say the intention is for the reader to choose their own takeaway from the story, whether or not this practice is morally just; but that gives the impression Zimmerman was writing this more as an assignment than a project of passion.
    In closing, Zimmerman does an excellent job of utilizing his research and knowledge to create a full-bodied, understandable account of what the whale industry is and how it came to be. Although it doesn’t have a clear statement it wants the reader to follow, it does leave them with a sense of broader perspective on the topic, and in that sense it is a very complete and well-rounded piece of work that really forces the reader to question the ethics of the entertainment industry, or at least feel even more irritated at the lengths companies will go to for profit.

  11. Kristopher Dunkle

    My thought, after reading the article several times and doing some online searching, is that hard “scientific discovery” has played little part in the story of SeaWorld’s orcas. In the article, their chief zoological officer “explains that while part of the goal is entertainment, SeaWorld’s aim is to use the shows to educate and inspire visitors, as a way to help conserve the environment and support wildlife.” That’s fine, but it’s clear that “hard-marine science” is not what they’re doing. The article spends only a couple paragraphs discussing the advances in knowledge that their captivity has brought, and said discoveries seem to merely be byproducts of business as usual: either from prolonged close contact or from SeaWorld’s efforts to avoid controversy by breeding them in captivity instead of continuing with wildly unpopular wild-capture operations.

    I think it’s safe to say that SeaWorld is a business, not a research center. Annual revenue is well over a billion dollars and spending on research and conservation outside the parks, according to a quote in the article from the chief zoological officer, is less than $10 million.

    For these reasons, I’m not yet convinced that the premise that the whales’ suffering and their trainers’ deaths were “for science” is true. I admit that it could be the case, but what was presented in the article leaves me thinking the opposite.

  12. Roger Vang

    John Quincy Adams, the 6th President of the United States, said, “It is of no use to discover our own faults and infirmities unless the discovery prompts up to amendment.” SeaWorld and Sealand have a dark history, whose faults were often ignored in the pursuit of money at the expense of killer whales.

    I believe enough is enough already. Now, research has shown that killer whales are not suited to live in such small tanks. They are meant to live with their pod, in the wild, where there is plenty of nurturing and stimulation for them. Over the years at parks like Sealand and SeaWorld, incidents where captive orcas harmed trainers became almost normal. All the signs pointed to the fact that the orcas were being mistreated, especially in those early years when little was known about orcas in general. The orcas were under stimulated, and in response, they tried to “play” with their trainers. This leads to trainer injuries and OSHA investigations, but it still wasn’t enough to stop the lucrative business. Sure, SeaWorld can claim that so much has been learned about the orca due to their business, but there are other, more humane, methods of learning about marine life.

    1. Tarean Allen

      I completely agree Roger. It is not humane to have such a large animal held in captivity in such confided quarters. They are so much larger than humans and need so much space. They want to play and socialize and training and performing is not meeting that need. They are meant to live with their pods and learn from their matriarch. They are not pets. I liked the research Balcomb has done on orcas just from observation. He even mentioned that they tended to stay away from the smaller loner groups of pods, so I took that as there is no hope for the orcas bred in captivity to be accepted in the wild.

  13. Tarean Allen

    I believe there should be a limit to the risks taken in the name of science and its discoveries. There is a difference of taking an animal that is injured and nursing it to health while learning all you can about it and taking an animal from its home to keep it for profit. According to Ken Balcomb, orcas live in large pods (family groups) their entire lives. By taking these pods, herding them, separating and dividing them amongst sea parks can be difficult for these intelligent and highly social animals. This can explain the accidents and deaths of humans by these emotionally distort animals. As humans, we are also highly social and have an insatiable thirst for knowledge about any and everything. I understand that certain aspects of wild animas’ lives are unknown because we have not had the opportunity to observe it. Therefore, the urge to take it and seclude it from its environment to observe it is understandable.

    Considering that we have not fully explored the depths of the ocean and its inhabitants, we do not know the complete impact the orcas have on their native environment. Some researchers consider orcas as a habitat in the ocean. “… we argue that mobile marine organisms provide the structure-forming biomass and constitute “habitat” in the open ocean” (Oleary and Callum). Removing these wild animals from their environment can have an impact on the oceanic ecosystem. It is our responsibility as intelligent higher-level beings to preserve our Earth and its inhabitants.

    Oleary, Bethan C., and Callum M. Roberts. “The Structuring Role of Marine Life in Open Ocean Habitat: Importance to International Policy.” Frontiers in Marine Science, vol. 4, May 2017, doi:10.3389/fmars.2017.00268.

    1. Brooke Mattice

      I really appreciate the point that you made about the impact removing the animals has on the oceans ecosystem. I did not even have that thought. I’m uneducated in that field, but I would guess that the impact cannot be positive.

  14. Jessica Mathews

    What a great read this was, I do not typically find myself being engaged with reading. This was something that touched home for me, growing up going to sea world in San Diego to go see SHAMU was always an exciting experience for me and then living in Orlando in my early adult years and visiting their theme parks. It really amazes me how many accidents have occurred over the years most of which no one ever hears about. The limits we as humans will go to for entertainment is unbelievable as stated in the reading “Every day you walk into your job, your walking into a potentially dangerous situation. You never forget that, you can not afford to forget that.” Does that not tell you right away, this is enough? After this reading I felt upset knowing the living situations of the orcas, the facts that the orcas have been removed from their pods which I never knew about. The humans whom have put themselves in danger over a job, that Sea World claims is an educational science discovery is ridiculous. The science factor can be done from boat or shore with the wild animals free in nature – that of which would give them an accurate response to any study they have going on, seeing how they interact with nature and how they interact in their pods. I could not imagine being ripped away from my family, a family is your base you grow from them and with out them you are unsure of that steps to follow.

    1. virginia blake

      You made very good points about being ripped away from there pods. I as well watched that documentary and actually lived in Florida with this happened. I myself love SeaWorld, Orlando and use to visit often. I only felt uneasy the bigger animals as it seemed there tanks were not big enough. In my personal opinion I don’t feel like every animal there is miserable or mistreated. The trainers give so much love and attention to them. It’s definitely heartbreaking with the killer whales. I do believe they should be removed from all and ant future companies. they are to big for such a small entrapment – they need there families as we do ours.

  15. Hunter Young

    Before reading this, I actually knew about the event that started out the article. My brother and I had watched the documentary Blackfish back when it was on Netflix (it might still be, and if so, I truly recommend). The writing was so compelling that even re-reading this really brought me in.
    Zimmermann took a very interesting, in my opinion, approach to this article. Based off of the (clever) title The Killer in the Pool, I honestly thought this was going to be about how violent and how cunning killer whales are (I’m still scarred from childhood about finding out that they will eat seals and penguins) but I loved the turn it took and how it almost advocated as to how this could have been prevented–in ways.
    Animals should just plain and simple not be put in captivity. They are supposed to be in the wild … not cages. I could go on a huge rant about this, but I can’t say it is all bad. I can see the good of keeping animals that are on the brink of becoming extinct in some form of captivation to keep the species safe, but for showing them off is just terrible. There was the quote on page 335, “The orca show was performed every hour on the hour, eight times a day, seven days a week. Both Nootka and Tilikum had stomach ulcers … Sometimes Nootka’s ulcers were so bad she had blood in her stool.” I think this just clearly shows that this isn’t what they should be doing to these animals.
    I think that this article gave a good insight onto what is happening with orcas in the history of their domestication. I do think it’s interesting that they still choose to operate with the history of violence that has happened. Although this number is “small” I do think it’s clear enough to show that these are examples of why this shouldn’t continue to happen. Risking lives for profit just seems absurd to me.

    1. Jessica Mathews

      Great points to focus on, I agree with you about the quote you inserted “The orca show was performed every hour on the hour, eight times a day, seven days a week. Both Nootka and Tilikum had stomach ulcers … Sometimes Nootka’s ulcers were so bad she had blood in her stool.” it should have showed HUGE red flags with not only this but the deaths as well. I saw the Netflix documentary Blackfish a few years back and would also recommend everyone to watch if still available! Keep up the good work!

    2. Michael Williams

      I agree that animals very rarely need to be put into captivity, but I’m not so sure they shouldn’t ever be. There are many instances where animals are found in the wild with no real hope of surviving without human assistance and sometimes even captivity. Such as with many tiger cubs in zoo’s, they were found alone with no mother and wouldn’t have survived on their own so it was really either “captivity” or death for them. There is also the need for scientist to be able to study animals while in captivity because they simply cannot learn as much about their biology in the wild as they can in closely monitored human care. Without the knowledge the captivity of some, usually ones with little chance of surviving in the wild, inevitable human interaction could have wiped out many of these species that due to a lack of knowledge about how we humans are impacting these animals.

  16. virginia blake

    I lived in Florida when this happened tragic accident happened. I am someone who also visited SeaWorld as an annual passholder. I have watched many documentaries and read tons of articles pertaining to this incident.
    Obviously, we know that today many companies are willing to test things to the limit to make money especially if it’s coming in as profit. The reading passage was quite interesting as I feel like some other key factors of that day were left out.
    One of the main things that I saw in a documentary that was on tv was that Tilikum had been having a rough morning. He wasn’t following any commands prior to the show and appeared agitated. Yet, they trainers were advised to continue with the show. These are the moments that they push these animals to far to make more money. It’s heartbreaking that it lead to such a tragic accident. I do not believe that it was because her “hair” was floating. It may played a small factor but I believe he should have been pulled from the show from the start.
    My person feelings are mixed. The history of Tilikum I feel like was very unfair and I do believe his life was miserable for him. However, this goes all the way back to when he was held in a small tank. I do think there are animals at SeaWorld that are happy and I do believe the trainers love them dearly. They spend 12-16 hours a day with this animal which is more time than they spend with their families. These animals are their families. Unfortunately, it’s hard to say these animals “look” good and these ones don’t. I think there should be a limit on the size of animal verses how big of a home they can provide. I don’t think whales as big as killer whales should be held captive in such a small space that SeaWorld has.
    I have watched the show in the past several times and they appear to be having fun and the love you see between trainers and animals seem pure however we don’t see behind the scenes. I think also animals are much like humans and just as we have bad days they do as well.
    When it comes to the hierarchy of leaders in a company is where it gets tricky. I think the ones sitting in an office, pushing paperwork don’t have near of a connection with the animals. I think their job is to make “x” profit and that’s what they do. They push things to the limit and they don’t have the knowledge of reality of day to day. Then I think you have your hands-on trainers who live and breathe for these animals and they are told what to do or how hard to push them. I would like to think they stand up for the animals or speak for them when limits are pushed too far.
    This whole process is kind of like healthcare. I work in an Elders Home in a village here in Alaska. The concept is the same as a nursing home anyone else. Sometimes the “administration staff” load you with unrealistic job duties or tasks to get things done. For instance, they may say dinner is 5:00pm to 5:30pm. However, this is very unrealistic when you have seven people who need to be fed as they are unable to feed themselves. In this scenario, us nurses and nurse aides must speak for our residents and our center as sometimes the front house just doesn’t understand the reality of day to day with patients.
    I think it’s the same at SeaWorld. You have hundreds of trainers who love and protect these animals but then you probably have handfuls of administration staff trying to make a “better” show and more profit down their backs pushing them. ‘
    For the love of the animals I hope the trainers speak up when they must.

  17. Michael Williams

    I think the issue of keeping animals in captivity for scientific discovery has really come to the forefront of the conversations about animal captivity in recent years, and for good reason. The more we learn about many intelligent animals such as apes and whales, the more we realize just how disturbing their captivity can be. As Jean-Michael Cousteau said in the essay “The Killer in the Pool”, “Maybe we as a species have outgrown the need to keep such wild, enormous, complex, intelligent, and free ranging animals in captivity, where their behavior is not only unnatural; it can become pathological” I think the debate really comes down to how important is the information we are learning? The facts of the matter are that keeping animals in captivity is almost never going to improve their lives, and often times does just the opposite, but the sheer volume of knowledge we can gain from being able to observe every minute of their lives is irreplaceable. To say we could have learned everything we did from captive Orca whales by simply observing wild ones in their natural habitat is incorrect at best. Even in this day and age its impossible to run the same battery of test that decades of captivity allowed for on the Orca whales while operating within their own watery domain. Scientist for example never would have even known how important their social lives if not for seeing what happens to them with extended isolation. That is perhaps cruel to think about, but it is the reality. The question now is, as Cousteau said, have we learned enough by now? As humans continue to expand into every single natural habitat on Earth it has become apparent that wildlife scientists primary work of the future is going to be mostly based on studying human-animal interactions. Places like Sealand and Seaworld provided lots of valuable information on that very subject but it seems to me that its about time for some major reformation. We know a huge amount about what not to do with killer whales mostly from trial and error so I personally think its about time to put that information to use for the good of the animals and figure out some healthier ways for humans and Orcas to interact.

  18. Sara Church

    Orcas have always been one of my favorite animals. I would watch Free Willy all the time as a kid. Reading about Tili’s life before the death of Dawn Brancheau leads to many questions of maybes. All those maybes could have changed things slightly enough where Dawn wouldn’t have died. Seeing how Tili was treated towards the beginning of his life, throws out big red flags for phycological problems for a human lit alone an Orca. SeaWorld payed a high price that day for marine biology science and I fear it was not worth it. SeaWorld decided they cared more about the money than the actual animals. Yes, they have top of the line facilities for the animals, but they care more for the fact that they attract more people to the parks. They knew Tili has been in other human deaths and they stopped to think of what this animal is going through.
    All throughout human history, humanity has paid a great price for scientific discovery. Marie Curie died of radiation poisoning when she discovered the radioactive elements polonium and radium. (https://www.biography.com/people/marie-curie-9263538) Curie paid a very high price for her scientific discovery, but without her discovery we wouldn’t have all the advances in science we have had without it. Finding humanities limit on scientific discovery is constantly in debate from universities all the way to congress. Coming up with a physical measurement on how far humanity is willing to go for science is incredibly hard. Most people would feel when a life is lost would be the acceptable limit. While others will see the death of some is an acceptable cost. Everyone has different limits they are willing to go to, finding a fine line to not cross will be the hard part.

    1. Rebekah Melchior-Waldron

      I liked how you that you included Marie Curie into your comment. That a is a great example of a sacrifice for science. I also agree that they care more about profits than the animals, which is obvious from their extremely low quality of life in captivity. Perhaps if they put more effort and money into advancing the animals health there would be even more scientific discoveries.

  19. Brooke Mattice

    As I read through this article all I could think about was being a young child watching the “Shamu Show.” I think I was around 7 or 8 years old. I was sitting in the front few rows known as the “slash zone.” I remember feeling bad for these magnificent creatures. I kept thinking about how big they were compared to how small their home was.

    If a young child can recognize that the fact that a 12,000 pound creature is probably miserable swimming in a pool for its whole life then why can the “researcher” not see it? This business is not about teaching people about the animals. It is to make a profit. Goldsberry stated …”I had to make a living.” He was the founding father of this industry. He admitted that it is abut making money.

    The trainers that claim to be animal lovers should take a step back and re-evaluate their morals. They are being selfish by wanting to train them to perform. If they truly loved animals they would want them to be happy and live a fulfilled life. Tili and the other whales that were spoken about are not living a very fulfilling life. The environment that they live in is equivalent to prison. They have done no wrong and are being punished.

    Wild animals should be researched and observed in the wild. That is where one can actually learn about the creature. What we have learned from Tilli is that you can try and try to make something tame, but it will always go back to it’s natural and wild instinct. I am excited for the day that animals will only be observed where they belong and are free.

  20. Rebekah Melchior-Waldron

    Unit 2: “The Killer in the Pool”

    I found TIm Zimmerman’s essay on notorious Tilikum and other captive orcas reminiscent of the 2013 documentary Blackfish. That film also chronicled the life of Tilikum and the presumed reasons for the death behind trainer Dawn Brancheau. I thought it was exactly like the print version of the film. After a quick internet search I learned they were so alike because Zimmerman was one of the writer’s for Blackfish. I watched the film several years ago and it was very provoking and well done. Most of all, it made the audience empathize with the animals, which was also well done in this essay but to a lesser extent. The found the film zeroed in on the discomfort and quality of life for the orcas while the essay seemed more focused on the danger to humans.
    There was another element that the essay included whereas the film did not featuring the advances in research that have been accomplished due to captive orca programs like SeaWorld (343). I found this point very interesting because researchers like Kenneth Balcomb are I assume very limited by funding but also more of distant observers. I think a valid point is advances in veterinary care and animal rescue could not have been made without a huge corporation like SeaWorld that has far greater resources and access. The article made included an example of discovering orca gestation periods are not identical to dolphins. However, the article briefly mentions some orca protection laws one of which is the Animal Welfare Act which has guidelines for housing captive orcas. Another is the Marine Mammal Protection Act which regulates authorization of capturing wild orcas. These policies need to be updated to include all that they have learned about orcas and not taken in vain, and then enforced so the laws that are supposed to protect them actually do just that. There must realistically be a way to continue research while also increasing the orcas quality of life. Their living standards would need to change. This can only happen if SeaWorld was less interested in profits than advancing orca research and animal welfare. They have gotten some bad press in recent years thanks to articles like this and Blackfish, which may have actually forced the company to change its ways. According SeaWorld’s website, the orca breeding program has come to an end, “The killer whales currently in our care will be the last generation of killer whales at SeaWorld.” This change was likely also influenced by a 2016 California state law banning captive orca breeding and featuring the animals for entertainment purposes excluding educational presentations.


    1. Amanda Carr

      I really enjoyed what you wrote because you went above and beyond and did some extra research. I did not know that SeaWorlds Orca breeding program has come to an end and that this will be the last generation of killer whales at the park. This is such great news! I also watched the “Blackfish” documentary and after watching that documentary and reading “A Killer in the Pool” I am very happy to hear that all of this will be coming to an end. It all seems to come down to humans being selfish. I know that I would absolutely love to go to SeaWorld and see a killer whale and everything else the park has to offer but now after watching and reading both of these, there is NO WAY… it’s all just a bit too sad for me.

  21. Amanda Carr

    What is the price we are willing to pay for scientific discovery? Is it worth it? When is it reasonable to say enough is enough?
    After reading Tim Zimmermans essay “A Killer in the Pool” I had to take a break and think about the assignment for few days before attempting to give an answer. I thought…OK if I was 100% sure I could save millions of peoples lives, I might sacrifice my body. BUT only if I could save A LOT of people and not just for the soul purpose of curiosity and a good time.
    There is a saying that my mom ingrained in my head from the time I was a wee one. It happened to come straight out of the Good Book (the Bible). Jesus said “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (New International Version, Luke 6:31).
    Who are these… “others”? Are “others” only human beans, or does “others” encompass animals and humans together? I decided to look up the definition of “other”. The first definition I found was in the Learners Merriam-Webster Dictionary it said “used to refer to the one person or thing that remains or that has not been mentioned”(https://www.learnersdictionary.com/definition/other).
    “The one person or THING… that has not been mentioned.” This definition seems clear to me, even though animals are not humans we should not be treating them so incredibly horrible. I know that I would not want to be treated like this.
    Tim Zimmerman quotes Paul Spong, the director of Orca Lab, studied orcas in the wild and also did part time research at Sealand. Paul said “If you pen a killer whales in a small steel tank, you are imposing an extreme level of sensory deprivation on them” “humans who are subjected to those same conditions become mentally disturbed.”(336-337)
    If a scientist’s “specimen” starts attacking/killing people or doing things out of the ordinary like self-inflicting pain, it is a clear cry out for help and, “enough is enough” should have probably been said a long time ago.
    If the experiment was being done on you, what would you do if you spoke a different language and wanted to tell them to stop because you’re sad, its painful and you miss your family?

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