On the Radar: Killer whale's return; the state of bridges; seeing Mercury
Tilikum will return to SeaWorld's "Believe" show on Wednesday.
March 30th, 2011
06:48 AM ET

On the Radar: Killer whale's return; the state of bridges; seeing Mercury

Killer whale's return: The SeaWorld killer whale involved in the death of a trainer more than a year ago returns to the park's "Believe" show Wednesday for the first time since the death, according to media reports.

In February 2010, Tilikum, a 12,000-pound killer whale, pulled senior trainer Dawn Brancheau, 40, underwater and killed her as horrified visitors watched at SeaWorld of Orlando's Shamu Stadium.

An autopsy showed Brancheau died of drowning and traumatic injuries to her body, including her spine, ribs and head.

The incident occurred at the conclusion of the park's "Dine With Shamu" event. Those shows resumed earlier this year.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined SeaWorld $75,000 for three safety violations, including one classified as willful.

SeaWorld has made safety upgrades to the killer whale stadium since Brancheau's death, CNN affiliate WESH reports.

And a park official says Tilikum is ready to return to shows.

"Participating in shows is just a portion of Tilikum’s day, but we feel it is an important component of his physical, social and mental enrichment," SeaWorld Animal Training Curator Kelly Flaherty Clark told WESH. "He has been regularly interacting with his trainers and the other whales for purposes of training, exercise and social and mental stimulation, and has enjoyed access to all of the pools in the Shamu Stadium complex."

The nation's bridges: Nearly three years after the collapse of the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis 13 people and injured 145, Transportation for America will release a report Wednesday on the state of the nation's bridges.

"Our country is facing a backlog of deficient bridges that need repairs and maintenance to stay open and safe, with needs far greater than what we’re currently spending," the group says in a statement leading up to the report.

The group will look at bridges in all 50 states and the District of Columbia and detail how many bridges are in urgent need of repair. Details on six states - California, Michigan, South Dakota, Florida, Illinois and Minnesota - has been previously released. The rest of the states will be cover Wednesday.

Views of Mercury: NASA is expected to release more close-up images of the planet Mercury.

The agency on Tuesday released the first image of the planet supplied by the Messenger spacecraft that was launched on August 3, 2004, and after flybys of Earth, Venus and Mercury, started its historic orbit around Mercury on March 17.

During the next three days, Messenger will acquire 1,185 more images in support of a phase to review spacecraft and instrument performance. The yearlong primary science phase of the mission will begin on April 4, during which it is expected to acquire more than 75,000 images.

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Filed under: Animals • Florida • On the Radar • Travel • Whales
soundoff (145 Responses)
  1. Spock

    @raven.. I didn't know it was not you, this guy is really nuts, well we can't do anything, just go along.

    March 30, 2011 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Schmidt

    http://www.thecovemovie.com/ The truth about how they obtain the animals.

    March 30, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Elkrich

    I love you raven

    March 31, 2011 at 6:20 am | Report abuse |
  4. Joel Raes

    I dont think this whale should be in anymore shows. It's a killer, literally.


    Joel Raes

    April 3, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • GHow

      all predators are killers

      May 26, 2011 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Laurie OH

    I visited SeaWorld Florida for the first time in my life last week. My son was performing with a high school band there. I had no idea it would be Tilikum's first day back in a show after the unfortunate death of his trainer last year. It was very clear something was up when we noticed 6 news helicopters hovering above the park.

    I am not sure what I expected with the shows there. Maybe a "circus" atmosphere. It ended up though that I felt an overwhelming amazement at the fact the despite the vast differences between humans and killer whales, the 2 could still communicate. The shows are done tastefully with a great respect for the animals. Other than the admission price being ridiculously high, SeaWorld was not so bad.

    April 4, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Merc

      This is the secret Sea World doesn't want you to know about Tillikum...

      First, orcas are big business. At Sea World specifically, the orca shows bring in 70% of the park’s income. That’s by their own admittance. Sea World has other orcas, but each one is extremely valuable because…
      …orcas are hard to get and harder still to keep. A live one costs about $600,000. While no cetaceans do particularly well in captivity, orcas are known for dying very young. Most do not make it into their 20s, even though wild males have an average lifespan of 30 (some are confirmed to be 60) and females an average lifespan of 50 (or as old as a century). An orca who can survive the stress of an entirely unnatural life in captivity (it appears that stress is a contributing factor in at least half of captive orca deaths) is a valuable one indeed, even if he sometimes kills trainers and park guests. Tilikum was about two years old when he was captured in 1983, making him almost 30. Plus…
      …Tilikum has sired 17 orcas, 10 of which are still alive–almost 1/4 of the approximately 42 orcas currently in captivity worldwide. Getting cetaceans to breed in captivity is a difficult task indeed, and Tilikum, unfortunately for him, is good at it. Since 1989, no orcas have been wild caught (with the exception of 10 caught during the infamous Taiji dolphin hunt) and public outcry, coupled with conservation laws, makes doing so again a difficult task. The entire captive orca industry relies almost exclusively on breeding males like Tilikum. Sea World has even discovered that Tilikum has unusually high testosterone, which accounts not only on his breeding success but, in part, for his violent behaviour.
      Back to the issue of Tilikum’s supposedly choosing to perform again, here’s what former Sea World trainer Samantha Berg has said about what happened to him after he killed his trainer, Dawn Brancheau, last year:

      “He’s been out of shows for about 13 months, so he’s really completely out of condition,” she said. “He’s also been extremely stressed, because he’s got broken teeth and he’s been on antibiotics on and off. We know he’s chronically dehydrated because he’s eating about 10 gallons of gelatin a day, which is about 80 pounds of gelatin just to keep him hydrated because he’s eating dead fish. And he’s also just been really isolated. (link)
      I’m not exactly sure how a 12,000 pound animal expresses his interest in leaping through hoops for dead fish, but I imagine that if you put a sickly human prisoner in solitary confinement for over a year and then paid her a little attention, she’d do just about anything for more.

      April 12, 2011 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
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