(Excerpted from TakePart.com)
Last Saturday, when Carlo De Leonibus and his wife took their daughter, Cat, to SeaWorld Orlando for her 11th birthday, they expected yet another exciting afternoon of whale and dolphin watching. SeaWorld was a regular destination for the Tampa-area family, and it had inspired young Cat to become a dolphin trainer when she grew up.
But after what they witnessed at Whale and Dolphin Stadium, Cat’s career plans have changed, and her family will not be returning to SeaWorld. The show was a sort of low-rent version of Cirque du Soleil starring dolphins, short-finned pilot whales (members of the dolphin family), and tropical birds. In the midst of the entertainment, one of the small whales leapt up onto the “slide-out” area, where it became beached and unable to move back into the pool.
It was an ugly sight: The whale rocked and writhed, vainly trying to push itself back to the water. Many in the audience began shouting and even swearing, demanding that someone on staff do something to assist the poor animal that was clearly in distress.
The crowd was extremely furious. People were stomping their feet. Everyone wanted that dolphin to be helpedThey waited and waited, but to De Leonibus’ astonishment, no one intervened, he tells TakePart in an exclusive interview. “The crowd was extremely furious. People were stomping their feet. Everyone wanted that dolphin to be helped,” De Leonibus recalls. “One man said he was going to go protest outside the park’s gates.” De Leonibus had seen enough. The struggling pilot whale had been stuck for at least 10 minutes, he estimates, “though my wife and daughter think it was more like 20 minutes.”
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