NYT’s Science Times Section Weighs in on Orca Captivity

Major feature, beautifully written, in Tuesday’s Science Times section of The New York Times that bills Blackfish and Death at SeaWorld as a twin assault on captivity, and gives ample coverage to Dr. Naomi Rose, who is a major figure in the book and has some wonderful quotes, and Dr. Lori Marino, who is also in the book.

I used to write for this section quite a bit, so this is a personal milestone for me, too, in my hometown paper, no less.


Now the issue has been raised with new intensity in the documentary film “Blackfish” and the book “Death at SeaWorld,” by David Kirby, just released in paperback.

The film and book both focus on the 2010 death of Dawn Brancheau, a trainer, at SeaWorld in Orlando, Fla. She was dragged underwater by a whale called Tilikum, who had been involved in two earlier deaths.

The event led to two citations for safety violations by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for an unsafe workplace, and an ongoing struggle over OSHA requirements that trainers be separated from killer whales. The most recent fine was in June, and SeaWorld is appealing both decisions.

Both the book and film argue that Tilikum’s actions were deliberate and that his behavior was a result of the psychological damage of captivity, not just at SeaWorld but also at another facility where he was first kept. SeaWorld has said the death was an accident, not a deliberate killing.

Please continue reading here, and be sure to leave a comment at the newspaper’s website. Thanks, David Kirby.

About David Kirby

DAVID KIRBY is the author of 'Evidence of Harm,' which was a New York Times bestseller, winner of the 2005 Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) award for best book, and a finalist for the New York Public Library Helen Bernstein Award for Excellence in Journalism, and 'Animal Factory,' an acclaimed investigation into the environmental impact of factory farms which NPR compared to Upton Sinclair’s classic work 'The Jungle.' His latest book, 'Death at SeaWorld,' was previewed by Library Journal, which wrote: “Lives are at stake here, and Kirby can be trusted to tell the story, having won a passel of awards for his investigate work.” Booklist called the book “gripping” and “hard to put down.”
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