Ex-SeaWorld Dolphin Trainer Speaks Out On Animal Abuse Backlash

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an orca

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When Guests visit Orlando, if they want to swim with the dolphins, meet a penguin, or interact with wildlife in the water, there is no place more perfect than Discovery Cove. Discovery Cove is owned and operating by SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, and is the sister Park to SeaWorld Orlando and Aquatica Orlando.

SeaWorld Orlando
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As described by SeaWorld, Discovery Cove is a reservations-only interactive marine life park. The park “offers guests the ultimate all-inclusive experience through up-close encounters with dolphins and other exotic sea life. Guests are able to participate in the park’s signature 30-minute dolphin interaction, snorkel with tropical fish and rays in The Grand Reef, wade beside marmosets and river otters in the Freshwater Oasis, hand-feed exotic birds in the free flight Explorer’s Aviary, relax in the large resort pool and swim along the tropical river.”

Infinity Falls
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SeaWorld is a popular Orlando theme park nearby Discovery Cove. Although the theme park puts a heavy emphasis on animal rescue and rehabilitation while focusing on habitat protection and supporting ocean health initiatives to our many rescue and rehabilitation efforts, the Park has still experienced some wrath. When the Blackfish documentary came out in 2013, the film focused on Tilikum, an orca kept in captivity at the marine park SeaWorld in the USA.

SeaWorld Orlando Mako Roller Coaster
Credit: SeaWorld

World Animal Protection noted the documentary is, “Built upon interviews of former marine mammal trainers, the documentary highlights various conservation and animal welfare issues surrounding the use of orcas in marine parks such as SeaWorld, as well as the dangers animal trainers face – seeing that Tilikum killed his trainer in 2010. ”

Afterwards, SeaWorld received a ton of negative press regarding their treatment of animals. Now, a former dolphin trainer at Discovery Cove is speaking out. Kavcn2020 said:

Worked for Discovery Cove and interned at Miami Seaquarium and Clearwater Aquarium. There’s so much misinformation out there related to how marine mammals are treated at various theme parks and I’m very passionate about sharing the facts about my time working with them.

Former dolphin trainer (Discovery Cove) here! AMA from Themepark

The thread is filled with comments of people asking questions. For example Dan4024 said:

Hi, thanks for making this effort to shed light on what really happens behind the scenes. I got to visit Discovery Cove last year and I’m making it a goal to go at least once a year. Wish they had annual passes like they do across the street.

I live closer to Busch Gardens but I tend to go to SeaWorld more often. I’m a dog owner and animal lover and I love seeing the orcas. My favorite is when they’re swishing their heads side to side with their tongue sticking out. To me they look happy. And after learning about Keiko, it makes sense that releasing them isn’t practical.

What’s your long-term goals? And you aiming for becoming a trainer full-time?

SeaWorld Killer Whale experience
Credit: Jessica Quinn

Kavcn2020 would then respond:

left the field in 2017 and went into accounting. Completely different! Long story short, I loved my time with the animals, but there are a lot of negative things about the field. The girls I worked with were very cutthroat, there was always drama, you don’t get paid well, have to work most holidays, and most trainers work part time because there are very limited full time positions available. I also wanted to marry my then boyfriend and start a family, so I made the career change. I miss the animals so much, but don’t regret leaving and I’m so happy that I was able to live my childhood dream. I am potentially going to start volunteering at a dolphin facility near me to get my dolphin fix, but am not considering going back to the field as a career.

Feliraptor was not impressed with the way animals were kept.

I can buy improved accommodations for the animals, alright. I even condone the great wildlife rehab work the parks do.

I cannot however, condone the poor conditions Lolita the Orca is kept in.

A orca jumping out of the water
Credit: SeaWorld

Kavcn2020 answered

As an intern there, I wasn’t privy to the same knowledge that the trainers were, but I think her situation is really complicated. I think everyone, trainers included, can agree that her living situation isn’t ideal. But from what I’ve heard, moving her from the Seaquarium is pretty much impossible for several reasons. One is her personality. This whale hates change and is extremely particular about certain things. I believe the behaviors that she does in her show rarely change because she’s very set in a routine. On top of that and her old age, the stress of moving her to another location could kill her. Her body is also used to the specific environment that she has been in most of her life and introducing her to new pathogens could be fatal as well.

The author of the post also stated their biggest pet peeve when it comes to people’s perception of animal treatment.

I could probably write a book on this. My biggest pet peeve is when people think they know what’s best for the animals without knowing anything about them. People will watch a documentary (Blackfish or The Cove) or read an article online and assume they are now the expert on marine mammal welfare. People assume that dolphins and whales are miserable at SeaWorld, that we “force them to perform”, and some still think that we continue to capture them from the wild. All of this is false.

When it comes to animal cruelty, we have recently reported about an ongoing conversation regarding some of the critters. Read more on that here. 

Related: Florida Theme Parks Swoon Guests From Disney With Free Alcohol

ice breaker seaworld
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Related: Coaster Left Stuck on Tracks as Theme Park Unexpectedly Shuts Down

At SeaWorld Orlando, the theme park is gearing up for the release of Ice Breaker, their newest coaster. Read our review here. 

What do you think of this ongoing conversation? What questions would you want to ask? 

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