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Death at SeaWorld

Shamu and the Dark Side of Killer Whales in Captivity

This book is available for download with iBooks on your Mac or iOS device, and with iTunes on your computer. Books can be read with iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.


From the New York Times bestselling author of Evidence of Harm and Animal Factory—a groundbreaking scientific thriller that exposes the dark side of SeaWorld, America's most beloved marine mammal park

Death at SeaWorld centers on the battle with the multimillion-dollar marine park industry over the controversial and even lethal ramifications of keeping killer whales in captivity. Following the story of marine biologist and animal advocate at the Humane Society of the US, Naomi Rose, Kirby tells the gripping story of the two-decade fight against PR-savvy SeaWorld, which came to a head with the tragic death of trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010. Kirby puts that horrific animal-on-human attack in context. Brancheau's death was the most publicized among several brutal attacks that have occurred at Sea World and other marine mammal theme parks.

Death at SeaWorld introduces real people taking part in this debate, from former trainers turned animal rights activists to the men and women that champion SeaWorld and the captivity of whales. In section two the orcas act out. And as the story progresses and orca attacks on trainers become increasingly violent, the warnings of Naomi Rose and other scientists fall on deaf ears, only to be realized with the death of Dawn Brancheau. Finally he covers the media backlash, the eyewitnesses who come forward to challenge SeaWorld's glossy image, and the groundbreaking OSHA case that
challenges the very idea of keeping killer whales in captivity and may spell the end of having trainers in the water with the ocean's top predators.

From Publishers Weekly

May 07, 2012 – Journalist Kirby offers another passionate industry exposé (after 2005’s Evidence of Harm), focusing on SeaWorld Orlando’s popular orca display and its costs in happiness and safety for both the animals and the humans who care for them. The main issue at hand is trainer Dawn Brancheau’s death, caused in 2010 by the orca and star SeaWorld attraction Tilikum, but Kirby’s painstaking account takes its time before arriving at this central tragedy. In addition to the long history of previous violent incidents involving captive killer whales, Kirby teaches readers more than they ever expected to learn about such subjects as marine park management and orca social dynamics. This comprehensive background can sometimes be more diligent than engrossing, but the narrative goes into high gear with its concluding confrontation between what Kirby portrays as SeaWorld’s corporate juggernaut, and the scrappy “anti-cap” (captivity) activists. From this latter camp, the book gives the most attention to disillusioned former trainer Jeff Ventre and, taking center stage as the story’s heroine, marine biologist Naomi Rose. Kirby’s exhaustively researched chronicle offers the definitive look at its subject, coming down squarely on Rose’s side to conclude that the human use of orcas for entertainment does neither species any favors.

Customer Reviews


I've seen it from the inside. This is the truth. What they do to these animals in captivity is inhumane. Big money will always find a way to cover things up.

Filled with truth

As a San Diego native, a conservative, a big business, and zoo supporter, I believed in places like Sea World and the educational benefits they provide.

However, as I go through school (for a Marine Mammalogist degree), I wanted to look at the issue of killer whale captivity from both sides, as only then could I come to an educated, thoroughly thought-out conclusion. This book was part of that journey for me.

I have to admit that this author is a little biased, but how could he NOT be after all his research uncovered?

For me personally, this book was the tipping point on marine mammal captivity. Although I am still a conservative and a big business supporter, it's a shame when a bottom line becomes more important than the welfare of the people and the animals that rely you.

As someone who is studying to work with marine mammals, I truly believe that killer whales (and all dolphins) DO NOT belong in captivity - they are too intelligent and much too social to be enclosed in concrete pools. Just like a dog that is never taken for walks will develop neurotic behaviors (like chewing, obsessions, or aggression), dolphins and whales in captivity will do the same - they are meant to travel, hunt, echolocate, and socialize with members of their NATURAL-BORN pods (as all pods in different areas of the world socialize in different ways).

When all of these activities are restricted, depression, aggression, and neurotic behavior sets in. But unlike dogs whose unwanted behavior can be controlled, whales and dolphins are so large, so strong, and so intelligent that tragedies are bound to happen.

No matter your stance on marine mammal captivity, this book is a must-have for anyone interested in dolphins or killer whales, as it not only gives you a great insight into how these animals are kept, but also an insight into these beautiful animals minds.

Amazing book

Oh my . All the negative comments here is clear they are supporters of sea world. They dont even put a bit of effort in let it appear a neutral comment!

I am a nobody person not affiliated with neither part but when i started to look at it from a perspective and read about orcas and their intelligence and social complex and their family bonds and the way they live in the wild i could not agree more than orcas do not belong in captivity. I didnt do much. I just went over the internet and research orcas conservation organizations and i just read what they had to say and i started learning about orcas in the wild vs captive ones and it came really clear to me why they are unsuitable for captivity.

The book explains it really really well.

The book is yes written by a journalist but STATES ALL FACTS AND ALL INTERVIEWS OF SCIENTISTS, former trainers and people who know orcas very very well and studied them for many years.

Orcas experts. People who dedicated their lives to orcas.

The author is simply putting the pieces together in the form of a book but the data in it is no news. Simply you never heard of it.

And even with all that ton of information a mistake in an orca gender may happen. Most books have mistakes. Cmon.

People who say they are all lies is simply lying. They are all facts. All the trainers deaths and all the incidents where orcas have attacked trainers are all documented. Latest one has been released two weeks ago didn' t you see it was all over the news. Just look for kasatka video attacking ken peters. This is coming from a company which say they have complete control over their orcas. The fact has been investigated at the time by the CAL OSHA which in a statement issued a warning and wrote "If someone hasn't been killed already," the summary said, "it is only a matter of time before it does happen."

Just three years later, in December of 2009, Keto, a SeaWorld orca on loan to Loro Parque in the Canary Islands, killed his trainer Alexis Martinez. Two months later, Tilikum killed his trainer, Dawn Brancheau, at SeaWorld Orlando.

And what about all the orcas that have died in captivity? To you who are saying these are lies i invite you to visit the whale and dolphin conservation society and read about orcas facts and the faith of all captive orcas especially those captured in the 70s in puget sound. Then if you think it is all lies you can call them and let them revise the data maybe?

I think this book is a must read and will let you understand how incredible these animals are and how much you would love to see them in the wild.

And by the way nobody is saying that they must all be released in the wild and bye bye. You are mislead. For some orcas there are already plan to be released in seapen in areas where they were born, their home. Look at Lolita who has been kept in captivity for 42 years which 22 alone without any orca companionship. There is a release plan for her in a sea pen close to her family, which is still there.

A great book which will let you know better one of the most amazing incredible animal on our planet. You will love orcas even more.

Death at SeaWorld
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  • $9.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Nature
  • Published: Jul 17, 2012
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Seller: Macmillan / Holtzbrinck Publishers, LLC
  • Print Length: 480 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

Customer Ratings