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Today Marks 10 Years Since SeaWorld Trainer Dawn Brancheau Was Killed By Tilikum

Today Marks 10 Years Since SeaWorld Trainer Dawn Brancheau Was Killed By Tilikum

Today marks 10 years since Dawn Brancheau was tragically drowned by a killer whale at SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida.

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As well as being the anniversary of her death, 24 February 2010 also represents the day SeaWorld changed forever.

The 40-year-old wasn't only a senior killer whale trainer but she was also the face of SeaWorld before she was dragged into the water and killed by Tilikum.

According to the Mirror, Dawn wasn't only drowned in the pool but she also suffered tragic injuries. Her arm was torn from its socket and she was scalped with her hair and skin found at the bottom of the pool.

Her spinal cord was severed, she sustained broken ribs and a broken jaw, with a post-mortem later revealing that she had died from drowning and also blunt force injury.

Dawn working with Tilikum. Credit: NBC/WESH 2 News
Dawn working with Tilikum. Credit: NBC/WESH 2 News
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Tilikum - who passed away two years ago - kept Dawn in the water for 45 minutes before finally releasing the body of the trainer that he had built a 'great relationship' with.

Speaking at the time of Dawn's death, John Hargrove, a senior trainer at SeaWorld, said: "We'll never know why Tilikum made that choice to grab Dawn and pull her into the pool.

"He had a great relationship with her, and she had a great relationship with him. I do believe that he loved her, and I know that she loved him."

Dawn moments before she was killed by the killer whale. Credit: NBC/WESH 2 News
Dawn moments before she was killed by the killer whale. Credit: NBC/WESH 2 News

In the decade that has followed there has been a great deal of change for SeaWorld. Arguably one of the most important, trainers can no longer perform in the water alongside the captive animals.

This meant the company had to change the show, and at the beginning of 2020 a new orca spectacle was introduced which focuses on conservation.

SeaWorld trainers with killer whales during the Shamu's One Ocean show at SeaWorld in 2016. Credit: PA
SeaWorld trainers with killer whales during the Shamu's One Ocean show at SeaWorld in 2016. Credit: PA

According to CBS, SeaWorld now runs a programme called 'Orca Encounter', which looks at the killer whales' role in the ocean ecosystem, behaviours the animals exhibit in the wild, the importance of conservation to their habitat and animal welfare practices at SeaWorld.

In addition to this, all Shamu (the stage name given to orcas performing in SeaWorld shows) merchandise slowly started to be removed from the shelves and it is now virtually non-existent within the parks.

A SeaWorld trainer rubs one of the killer whales in 2016. Credit: PA
A SeaWorld trainer rubs one of the killer whales in 2016. Credit: PA

In 2013, a documentary-film called Blackfish was released which highlighted the life Tilikum led in captivity. It also accused the theme park of abusing the killer whales and resulted in a decline in both revenue and attendance at SeaWorld.

Fast forward to recent events and the park has agreed to pay $65 million (£50.3m) to settle a lawsuit after allegations surfaced that the company deceived investors by claiming the anti-captivity documentary had no negative impact on park attendance.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the settlement needs to be approved by a federal judge.

Dawn Brancheau with one of the killer whales in 2005. Credit: PA
Dawn Brancheau with one of the killer whales in 2005. Credit: PA

One thing is for sure, SeaWorld relies on orcas to keep the business running, which was proven when SeaWorld San Diego temporarily ceased its killer whale shows which caused a 'deterioration' in attendance, outlined in the 2017 Annual Report.

It's also important to remember that while it took the tragic death of a star trainer on 24 February 2010 to bring about any change, a considerable amount has happened since to inspire future generations of conservationists.

RIP, Dawn Brancheau.

Featured Image Credit: Facebook/The Dawn Brancheau Foundation

Topics: News, SeaWorld, Whale, Animals

Rebecca Shepherd

I'm Becky - a journalist at LADbible. I graduated with a First Class BA in Journalism before going on to cover criminal court cases, medical tribunals and breaking news for the national media - which inevitably and eventually became as glum as it sounds. Can often be found rocking a bag for life - which I made a 'thing' way before Rihanna. You can contact me at [email protected]

 

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