Have you been to SeaWorld and wondered what it’s really like behind the scenes? Maybe you watched Blackfish and wondered if the documentary’s claims are really true? The only way to truly know would be to talk to people that have worked for SeaWorld. Sadly for the orcas and other animals in SeaWorld’s parks, the worst stories you’ve heard pretty much check out. Via a series of disturbing confessions we’ve tracked down from SeaWorld workers, you’ll learn about the horrifying way SeaWorld gets its animals, what the guests get up to when no one’s looking and the horrible way one employee paid off their student loan. Clue: it involves dead dolphins.
You’ll also begin to understand why so many people want SeaWorld closed. Sure you may have fond memories of visiting the park as a kid, but given what’s been revealed by Blackfish and former employees blowing the lid off the park’s secrets, it’s probably time for SeaWorld to close its doors. Check out our list of jaw-dropping confessions to see why SeaWorld is just as dark as PETA says it is.
15. Did SeaWorld Employees Really Sell Dolphins To Restaurants?
This grim and revolting confession was spotted on Whisper and frankly we’re really hoping this isn’t true. An anonymous former SeaWorld employee claims that they paid off their student loans by selling dead dolphins. Worse still, they apparently sold those dead dolphin carcasses to Japanese restaurants.
That’s one sushi meal that would be seriously hard to stomach. Seeing Flipper doing somersaults in a chlorinated pool one day and the next, Flipper’s fresh flesh is all rolled in rice on your plate? Horrible. Though it begs the question, what does SeaWorld do when their animals die? There are definitely no Shamu gravestones at the park, so where do they all end up?
14. SeaWorld Employee’s Weren’t Told Their Animals Came From ‘The Cove’
While SeaWorld likes to paint a pretty picture about their breeding programs, the brutal reality is that many of their animals were cruelly snatched from the wild. And there’s no more horrific story than that of four false killer whales that lived at the park. Taken during the horrific fish drive in Japan, they would have been surrounded by the blood of dead family members before being hauled from the ocean and flown to the USA. Former SeaWorld employee, Samantha, explains: “We had four false killer whales at the whale and dolphin stadium from the drive fishery (The Cove) and I didn’t know while I was working there”.
“It takes place in Japan, where dolphins and whales are driven into coves via boats and brutally slaughtered for their meat and the best looking animals are purchased for marine parks and aquariums all over the world. It is the money generated by the performance animals that perpetuates the slaughter.”
13. SeaWorld’s Training Program Is Borderline Psychological Torture
If you’ve visited SeaWorld, you may have seen trainers rewarding whales and dolphins with small fish for good behaviour. The jury’s out on whether the parks withhold food for bad behaviour. Some former trainers deny this, because who wants to be in the water with a hungry killing machine, right? Others say it’s true. What has been confirmed is the harsh realities of life for performing animals.
A former ‘Entertainment Ambassador’ at SeaWorld Orlando gives their take on their two year stint at the park, saying: “The conditions at SeaWorld Orlando, honestly, have been static. Nothing’s really changed in terms of the care they receive. It’s good, but the ‘positive/negative conditioning’ they use to train these animals is borderline psychological torture. They are TRAINED to perform for food – like a robot in a way.”
“The psychological damage happening to these animals is something that made me want to talk about it in the first place. The desperation you see in some of these animals, like the dolphins, makes you think twice.”
12. A SeaWorld Owned Orca Killed A Man In Spain
SeaWorld’s orcas don’t always get to stay in the USA. Shipped halfway around the world, the whales are sent to parks where conditions are even worse than the ones at SeaWorld. And in 2009 one of those orcas killed a trainer in Spain. The trainer’s name was Alexis, and this time it wasn’t Tilikum who was responsible.
One former SeaWorld employee, John Hargrove, explains: “When Brian [another trainer] dove in, Alexis was just on bottom of pool, dead,” Hargrove said. “When they pulled him from the water, blood was coming from every orifice. The autopsy report showed that he suffered massive internal injuries, both his lungs collapsed.”
11. SeaWorld Didn’t Warn Their Own Staff About Dangerous Whales
Because the death of Alexis didn’t happen at a USA park, SeaWorld felt it was okay not to tell its USA-based staff about the dangers of getting in the water with the whales. As former employee John Hargrove reveals, “I was personally swimming in the water with whales after two days in San Antonio – that was another thing that made me so sick with [former CEO] Jim Atchison,”
“In the press he’d say, ‘We are such a tight family; we’re pulling the trainers out of water for a safety review.’ None of that was done with Alexis because they didn’t care. There was just no media attention to it.” Two months after this incident Dawn Brancheau was killed in a similar accident.
10. SeaWorld Employees Have To Get Way Too Intimate With Their Animals
If you hear the phrase, ‘bred in captivity’ and think – hey, at least the animals are getting some … you’d most often be wrong. SeaWorld is all about the practice of artificial insemination. Which means it’s someone’s job to massage a killer whale until it reaches a happy ending. One former SeaWorld trainer tells all and reveals way too much information about the reproductive shenanigans going on behind closed doors at SeaWorld:
“We worked out of the view of the public (a lesson we learned the hard way), and tried to probe, persuade, and elicit a response from the whales and dolphins. The whales/dolphins were signalled to roll over and present [themselves]. Once on his back, he was stroked and stimulated.“
“The progress was slow, but the climax to the experiments came unexpectedly and suddenly (the jokes and puns are just writing themselves, I know).”
And for anyone interested in this sort of thing, apparently “dolphins are ‘hung’ much like a human.” But killer whales were often referred to as ‘Pink Periscopes’ and, as the trainer says “at 6ft long, were not easily overlooked.”
9. Staff Lie To SeaWorld Visitors – All. The. Time.
If you’ve ever asked a SeaWorld employee a question, chances are you’ve been lied to. Whether you’re asking about animal welfare, how long the animals live for or just basic animal knowledge – it could all have been a lie. Most workers are ‘performers’ with little marine biology qualifications. One former employee who worked as a ‘parks and entertainment ambassador’ did a revealing Reddit AMA.
Here’s one of the secrets she divulged: “The scripts of the presenters in the education department are blatantly altered to present the company in the best possible light, regardless of the actual facts about the animals. Our design motto was ‘most people will believe it if you say it nicely to them… and then forget about it.’ Which rang true when it came to talking their ear off during the shows.”
8. Profits Are More Important Than Baby Dolphins
SeaWorld works its dolphins hard. The long opening hours and regular shows mean the animals are constantly performing, seven days a week. SeaWorld rakes in the big bucks through its dolphin encounters. Even when the dolphins are cranky and prone to biting! Add in the feeding shows and acrobatics and they all take their toll. When the park’s dolphins were just too worn out, SeaWorld realised they needed to fast track a baby dolphin and start a rigorous training schedule to get it ready for performances.
A former SeaWorld employee told cracked.com: “They just grabbed a baby dolphin and started prepping for his ‘interactions.’ That meant separating him from his mother and moving him into an all-male dolphin pod that afternoon. He died that night.”
7. SeaWorld Guests Get Down And Dirty
Whenever there’s an AMA on Reddit, things nearly always get a little adult, if you know what I’m saying. One inquisitive Redditor was keen to steer the topic in a slightly taboo direction. And apparently what people get up to at SeaWorld, when they think no one is looking, is actually hot gossip among the security detail at the park.
A former employee explains: “Exhibitionists A.K.A. daring guests will often be found getting it on in the bathroom, storage closets… and yes, even during the dark spots during a live-motion ride. The general public should be aware that even though it’s dark, we can still see them and all their devious activities. The dark is no longer a safe place to do the dirty deeds, and will wind you up in a lonely jail cell. ;)”
6. It’s A Living Hell For SeaWorld’s Animals
When you hear former SeaWorld trainers talk about the whales and animals, one thing is clear: they love the animals they work with. Do they understand that their lives in captivity aren’t natural? Sure, but ultimately it’s usually a misguided adoration for these animals that sees trainers wind up at the parks in the first place. Most stay until they just can’t take it any longer.
Former SeaWorld employee, John Hargrove, explains what he learnt during his time there, saying: “I finally came to the realization that if I had to live their lives, it would be hell. Captivity is always captivity, no matter how gentle the jailer. I can personally tell you from being there for 14 years, they are not healthy and they are not thriving.”
5. Did SeaWorld Really Lie About Dawn Brancheau’s Death?
In 2010, a SeaWorld trainer named Dawn Brancheau was killed by Tilikum, a 29 year-old male killer whale. AIf you’ve seen Blackfish, you’ll know that after Dawn Brancheau’s death at SeaWorld, things got kind of sketchy. The movie claims SeaWorld blamed Dawn herself for her own death and trotted out a bunch of different versions of events to cover up what really happened. There was an official investigation by OSHA – the Occupational Health and Safety commission, but it seems SeaWorld may have tried to hide the truth.
A former SeaWorld employee, Michelle Dillard, confessed all saying: “I personally witnessed [the Sea World Management team] outright lying to OSHA, using intentional delay tactics to stonewall the investigation and, behind closed doors, revealing an inflexible and obstinate refusal to be forthcoming and accommodating toward OSHA.”
4. SeaWorld Employees Could Swim With Tilikum Before They Were Old Enough To Rent A Car
Tilikum was responsible for the deaths of two people before killing Dawn Brancheau – but that didn’t stop SeaWorld from letting trainers get in to the water with him, or going too close for that matter. One former SeaWorld worker dished the dirt on everything at the park from the lack of training, young employees and the dangers involved on Reddit. Check out the secrets they revealed:
“The median age of employees at SeaWorld Orlando is 16-25; for good reasons of course! To suppress local wages and to keep most of our front-line employees clueless. According to our textbook answer, ‘all animals trainers spend years in [animal] husbandry before even getting a chance to interact with our killer whales.’ Pfft, as if! Throw a SeaWorld Parks internship in animal training (3 months), a bachelors in ‘marine biology,’ a year or two of full-time work, and you can be petting Tilikum before you’re even old enough to rent a car. I’m sure all of our animal trainers were aware of Tilly’s incidents and behaviours prior to the accident, but the excitement of being an animal trainer at SeaWorld is like… an ego booster.”
3. Things Get Complicated During Dolphin Mating Season
If we’re honest, who hasn’t wanted to swim with dolphins. Many may prefer to interact with them in the wild, but if you visited SeaWorld as a child, you may well have told your careers advisor that you wanted to be a SeaWorld trainer. Well, this confession may make you think twice.
An artist who worked at SeaWorld Orlando recalls a very disturbing talk with a trainer, saying: “I was chatting one morning with a trainer and he told me that during mating season it’s very dangerous to get in the pools with the dolphins. The males have been known to push trainers up against the pool walls and try to mate with them. Dolphins are nothing but massive muscle and are extremely strong. They are aggressive during mating season too.”
2. When Everyone’s Gone Home – Things get Truly Heart Breaking
If anyone is going to get a true glimpse into the real lives of animals at SeaWorld, it’s the people on night time security duty. The lights are off, there are no crowds, no trainers – just the animals chilling in their tiny tanks. And what happens at night will probably break your heart.
An anonymous security guard spills the beans: “The animals are so conditioned by their training they repeat it over and over – even at night when the crowds and trainers have gone home: the younger dolphins will ‘practice’ new behaviours they learn to perfection. Like when they get weighed they slide out of the water and onto the scale. Well some of the younger ones will just do that over and over and over for hours.”
1. What SeaWorld’s Security Detail Get Up To After Hours
Now we know what the animals do after dark, but what about the staff? With nothing to do except wander around looking for people trying to sneak in and pet a killer whale, it seems some staff got up to some mischief. Our anonymous security guard has more secrets to spill:
“There were some that would do drugs or drink on the job. Others stole bottles of beer and what not. [I don’t know] how they could do that, [this] place is nearly pitch black and super creepy how anyone can be under the influence in that environment beats me. Some would sneak into the camp area or arcade area and play basketball. Or race golf carts.”
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