Orlando Sea World Tragedy: Why Are We Surprised When Wild Animals Attack

25 Feb
2010

I just don’t get it. While my heart goes out to the poor women’s family, I can’t understand how anyone could be shocked over the tragic death of the female trainer at Sea World because she was killed by Shamu the Killer Whale. Shocking because her life was taken from her too soon, yes. But when it comes to ‘wild’ animals how could anyone be shocked when the animals don’t act how we think they should. Sure wild animals we have in captivity are trained to some extent, but an animal’s instinct and behavior always prevails.

Take for example that horrible incident in Connecticut where the owner of a 200 pound chimpanzee attacked and mauled her friend who was visiting. It is only shocking because we don’t hear of such stories. The monkey was stabbed by its owner and finally shot by police, which was necessary and appalling at the same time. Why appalling…because it is not the moneky’s fault for being aggressive (the animal had recently been given Xanax due to aggitation prior to the incident), and it shouldn’t have had to die because it acted like, well, an aggressive monkey. The question I’d like to know is “why was it out of it’s cage to begin with?”

The most well known ‘trained’ wild animal versus man tragedy happened in Las Vegas when after having 30,000 perfectly timed shows, Seigfried and Roy were once again performing and one of the tigers decided it was in a bad mood and attacked Roy Horn.  While it is no laughing matter whatsoever, I do jest when I say the tiger was in a bad mood, because here is a clip from a recent news article on the Killer Whale Incident at Sea world that I came across in a Sydney paper with a comment about Shamu’s mood:

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Animals do not need to cooperate with humans. They do it to humor us and for a treat. Their moods are just as erratic as humans and one they sometimes cannot articulate in a manner in which we understand.

Another strange comment I came across in the same news article highlighted below:

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How do you investigate an animal? Will they sweat them out in an interrogation room and question each and every aquatic creature to get to the bottom of this?

It is plain and simple. Anything could have struck Shamu’s proverbial mood.  Wild animals are wild animals. I think the problem is that we become used to only certain animals being capable of injury and death, such as the shark or a bear. We become complacent around ‘domesticated’ or trained animals. If you put it all into perspective, it is sad and tragic when animals hurt humans, but it is not something that should surprise anyone.

2 Responses to Orlando Sea World Tragedy: Why Are We Surprised When Wild Animals Attack

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Cbenaski

February 25th, 2010 at 12:35 am

It’s called a “Killer Whale” for a reason!!! Not a “Hey let’s bring my baby to the edge of the tank so he can pet it” Whale!! You CAN NOT domesticate WILD animals. Period. End of Story.

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The Momster

March 5th, 2010 at 9:01 am

Further stories about the incident indicated the trainer had left her hair in a ponytail. This was a choice that was and still is considered a big no-no when handling killer whales in particular. The trainer made a tragic mistake the day the incident occurred.

The reason being killer whales have a type of sensing gland located either in between or near there teeth. They use this gland to examine things that are of interest to them.

According to other witnesses and staff, the female trainer that was killed was already partly in the water and was leaning over the whale with ponytail hanging down toward the whale. Another tragic mistake.

The other staff trainers deduced that the killer whale probably was simply curious about the hair dangling near his mouth and decided to investigate. So he dragged the trainer into the water and down under it. He then proceed to play with the trainer too roughly, taking the trainer into his mouth.

Killer whales, in particular, have the ability to take things into their mouths, using it like a hand, and can pick up items as small as a quarter without any damage or dropping it.

He did not purposely try to hurt the trainer. The trainer and the whale had a long time bond. He obviously did not realize his own strength and, as a result, the trainer drowned.

Of course, killer whales are wild animals, but when kept in captivity since either very young or since birth do not normally attack their trainers.

They can, though, act too aggressively toward their trainers and this particular whale had a history of that and was responsible for a couple of other accidental deaths.

In this instance, I think more strict precautions should be taken with this whale in the future, and I believe that is what the staff intend to do.

In regards to the white tiger attacking one of it’s trainers several years ago (can’t remember if it was Sigfried or Roy). I had read back then, that the trainers felt, the tiger most likely was attempting to defend/protect and remove the trainer from the stage. A woman in the front row of the theatre had gotten up or was doing something that might appear to be an aggressive gesture to the tiger.

When female tigers either carry or protect their young cubs, they pick them up with their mouth and teeth and move them out of harms way, just like all cats.

Sigfried and Roy felt that this is what the tiger was attempting to do. They explained that the tiger probably saw the woman as a threat and wanted to protect the trainer, not maul him.

Again, a wild animal acting on instinct, unwittingly harming the trainer he was really trying to protect from harm.

Same deal with the chimp. He was treated as a child by his owner, and never caged. He was agitated for some reason that day and also appeared to see the woman he attacked as exhibiting threatening behavior and, as a result, attacked her trying to protect and defend his owner. Obviously, the owner and here friend did not understand, at the time, what was happening.

Ironic, sad, and tragic.

Humans need to realize that wild animals are NOT domesticated animals like cats and dogs and farm animals.

They still react using the wild instincts nature gave them to survive in the wild, but in an unpredictable fashion.

Domesticated animals have been domesticated by man over the course of many thousands of years. As a result, they are mostly tame and, in most cases, can be relied upon to act in a consistently gentle manner towards humans. And, in a predictable way.

Basically, we know what kind of behavior to expect, on a regular basis, from them.

Important to understand is even domesticated cats and dogs are acting on instinct with us. When they bond with and interact with people, we literally become their pseudo moms and litter mates.

Cats see us as their mother cat and act accordingly. Dogs see us as the lead pack dog. Dogs are pack animals and are descended from wolves.

So, when we think animals, either wild or domestic, are in a “mood”. They are, but only in relation to their instinct to survive, as nature intended.

And, if you delve into why we, as humans, act they way we do toward each other, you’ll discover (check out the science behind it) that we, as the human animal, are not that much different from our wild cousins.

We are trying to survive within our in our environment, as well. The limbic system of our brain, our lower brain, helps us out to do this.

We just threw civilization, language, domestication of lower animals, art, science, writing, music, and technology into the mix. Take away all that and you have our wilder selves from prehistoric times.

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