Dr. Oz: Killer Whale Controversy of Dawn Brancheau & Tilikum- Juile Scardina

Doctor Oz discussed with Julie Scardina about the death of Dawn Brancheau by Tilikum, a killer whale at Sea World.  Tilikum is a 12,000 pound killer whale, which is the largest killer whale that Sea World has (Dr. Oz pointed out that this is about the size of a school bus).  Some believe that it was the swish of Dawn’s blond ponytail that caused the killer whale to attack, but I have also read that some people believe that Tilikum had pre-meditated the plan to kill Dawn.  Dawn’s family has asked Sea World not to kill the whale, and they are respecting this request.

Julie Scardina knew Dawn well and also has trained with killer whales.  Scardina said that it is very rare when something like this happens, because trainers are almost never killed by whales.  Dr. Oz asked Scardina how you can assess the risks of these animals and if there was ever a time when she thought that she could be at danger.  Scardina said that you get to know these animals on a very intimate level and if you ever think the animal isn’t in a good mood or is having a bad day, they don’t take chances.  If something does not look or feel right, they don’t get into the water with the killer whales.  Dr. Oz said that some people say these are wild animals and should not be kept in captivity but should be out in nature.  Scardina’s argument is that by having them in parks like Sea World, guests are able to educated about these animals.  Scardina said it was not very long ago that people would hunt killer whales for food.  What do you think, should killer whales be kept in nature or should a few be kept at places like Sea World? Comment below!


  1. Betty J says

    I first want to thank the Brancheau family for their request on behalf of Dawn that Tillicum is not killed. And secondly thank Sea World for following through with their wishes. Now I make my own plea and ask that Sea World release Tilicum into the wild, if at all possible, along with the other whales. I went to Sea World San Fransisco back in the late 80’s. I had such an awesome experience… the kind that makes you want to work with animals as a career. I did end up working at my local zoo which again is and was a very special part of my life. While at Sea World, I got the opportunity to feed porpoises at their interactive pool (I will NEVER forget the way they feel); I got to see a baby walrus (and wanted so badly to touch his whiskers); and took the conveyor through the penguin world (I wanted to be in their with them!). My entire time at the park was incredible. But I was also saddened… I took in the whale show and got what we know to be the “nose bleed” seats. Although the seats were far from the front, it gave an incredible view of the entire area that the whales had to move in, perform in, and their holding tanks. As soon as the show began, I started to cry because I began to see these beautiful creatures having to “perform for their supper”. Having worked in a zoo, and a good one at that, I know of the love the keepers have for the animals under their care. I also know that if it weren’t for zoo’s, many of these animals would be extinct. Yes, many are “ugly” in the eyes of the public, but for a person like me, they are all beautiful in my eyes. So when I saw these majestic whales and how huge they were and the space they were in, I could not stop crying. Now it is 2010 and I find myself still crying. It is a shame that as the caregivers to these wonderful mammals, we have to bow down to confining them in order for people to learn and understand the jeopardy some of them are in. I came from a generation that cut open frogs for a junior high school class and have seen how that has changed, how there are new options to learning about the insides of our precious wildlife. I hope that 2010 will be the year that whale shows come to an end and that parks like Sea World become the leaders in education without having to confine. For the sake of future generations of healthy populations of whales and other sea mammals and creatures, please become the much needed stewards this world so desperately needs and be leaders in education and conservation for the sake of our world’s up and coming human populations.

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