Archive | November 2011

A Whale of a Holiday Shopping Spree: Ideal Gifts for the Sea Life Lover in Your Life

Stuffed animals like this ever adorable Winter Doll, make great gifts for kids and young adults of all ages.

Since the Holiday season has just arrived, I decided that I’m going to write an entry about some ideal gifts that the ultimate sea life lover in your life. Below is a video that talks about some reading and video suggestions for the  aspiring marine mammal trainers in your life:

Here are some links to purchase or check out some of the books and DVDs mentioned in this video which talks about suggestive reading and viewing on animal training and care.

Wild Careers: Working with Animals:

Dolphin Discovery: Bottlenose Dolphin Training and Interaction:…

Starting Your Career as a Marine Mammal Trainer:…

Lads Before the Wind : Diary of a Dolphin Trainer :…

A Dolphin In Front of Your: A Guide to Starting Your Career as a Dolphin Trainer:…


Celebrating Dolphins:

Winter: The Dolphin that Could:

The Saving a Species DVDs are all available at the gift shops at SeaWorld Parks. If you buy them at the Animal Connections Conservation Center at SeaWorld San Antonio, or at a gift shop at any one of parks, the proceeds made from the purchase goes to the SeaWorld Busch Gardens Conservation Fund.

P.S., if you are interested in ordering the SeaWorld publication material, via, SeaWorld’s Education Department, learn more at:

Gift certificates for animal encounters with sharks, fish, penguins and marine mammals at any facility such as Clearwater Marine Aquarium, SeaWorld, Discovery Cove, and Mystic Aquarium make great holiday gifts for the ultimate adventurer on your list.

For those who have friends or loved ones who want to get into dolphin biology, here are some awesome books on the topic that they will love.

"Dolphin Mysteries" focuses on the efforts to study and understand dolphin communication

Dolphin Mysteries: Unlocking the Secrets of Communication is an amazing book that focuses on the efforts of two dolphin biologists, Dr. Kathleen M. Dudzinski, and Dr. Toni Frohoff as they attempt to study and understand the secrets behind dolphin communication by studying dolphin populations in the Bahamas, Japan, and Guatemala. Over the years, they have found new ways to both understand and listen to the vocabulary and social signals of dolphins while providing a whole new scientifically accurate portrait of dolphins unlike any other the world has ever seen before. This is a must read for anyone who is interested in studying dolphin biology.

Dolphin Mysteries: Unlocking the Secrets of Communication:

"The Dolphin in the Mirror" is a fantastic book for anyone who is curious about dolphin intelligence and it should be ready by anyone who wants to one day work with these amazing mammals.

Dr. Diana Reiss’s The Dolphin in the Mirror is a cleaver book that focuses on her experience studying dolphin intelligence. Dr.Reiss began her work on dolphin intelligence more than 30 years ago when she worked with a young female dolphin named Circe at a small aquarium in France. A few years later in the 1980’s. She began doing several research projects with a dolphin colony at Marine World USA (now known as Six Flags Discovery Kingdom), and has even went on to work on a successful self-recognition project with two male dolphins at the  New York Aquarium in the 1990’s. Today, she is the director of National Aquarium’s dolphin research program, a member of two zoological organizations, and a professor at three colleges. She is also involved in the effort to stop the drive fisheries in Japan. Resiss’ years of observations and research done on dolphins will have you continue to appreciate these amazing animals.

The Dolphin in the Mirror:

"To Touch A Wild Dolphin" is an incredible story about discovering the social lives of Australia's Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin population.

Below is a review video I did on To Touch A Wild Dolphin, a classic memoir by Rachel Smolker that tells the the true story of a young researcher named Rachel Smolker, who in the 1980’s started a long-term study on a population of Indo-Pacifc bottlenose dolphins in Monkey Mia in Shark Bay, Australia. It is a classic story about dolphins that is a must read for anyone who loves dolphins, and marine mammal research.

To Touch a Wild Dolphin:

If your friend or loved one has jewelry on their Christmas list, then Aelia Petro's animal necklaces make gifts for those who love animal-themed jewelry. Beautiful Winter Dolphin necklace Aelia. Visit her site at:

All the orca lovers on your list will love orca adoptions through the Whale Museum's killer whale adoption program. Each whale adoption comes with a certificate, photo, biography, genealogy and updates on how their whale and his/her pod is doing along with booklet on Southern Resident killer whales, and more.

All of these gift ideas and more can be found on:

Hope these gift suggestions make your Holiday shopping experience a good one and Happy Holidays.


Happy 6th Birthday Trua

Trua is one of the most curious killer whales at SeaWorld Orlando. He is also one of three males residing at the facility too.

Today,  November 23rd, 2011 marks Trua the killer whale’s sixth birthday. For some of you who may not know his story, Trua was born at SeaWorld in Orlando, FL on Thanksgiving in 2005 to Takara (a San Diego-born killer whale who now resides at SeaWorld Texas) and Taku*(an Orlando-born killer whale who died in 2007).   He will interact with human guests and trainers behind the glass walls and on stage as well. He can sometimes be seen playing with his half-sister Nalani, but will spend more time with his aunt Malia. Trua has been recently grouped with his grandfather Tillikum.  In the past few years, Trua has been doing various behaviors on his own and often performs in the SeaWorld killer whale show One Ocean along with the other whales.

When I went to visit SeaWorld Orlando this past summer, I was fortunate enough to catch Trua in action…..interacting with the guests at Shamu Stadium.  As the guests began to settle down at the stadium, Trua spent most of his time interacting behind the glass as if he was curious about all the crowds who were sitting down. I think he was just amusing himself over the excitement that was going on behind the glass walls and it was funny to watch too. During that time, Malia would hang out with him for a little while before swimming away from him. It’s almost like every time Trua and Malia hang out together, they remind me of two high school sweethearts.

Happy Birthday Trua, and may you continue to be the light of Shamu Stadium for years to come.


Rain at Shamu Stadium: The Day I Met Dawn and Why I choose to Follow in Her Footsteps

Me with Dawn Brancheau in 2007 when I was doing a camp program at SeaWorld.

It was a hot and rainy summer day in August 2007. I was sixteen years old at the time and was participating in SeaWorld Orlando’s Career Camp program. This was my second year of doing the camp programs at any SeaWorld park. I joined my camp-mates at Shamu Stadium to watch the Believe show when she did a segment called “Something FarGreater” with a killer whale named Kayla. I can remember watching Dawn and Kayla swimming side by side as the music played throughout Shamu Stadium. Whenever Kayla was ready to do the next act of the show, Dawn would jump into the water with Kayla and the next act would begin from there. The moment when she both, hugged and played with Kayla on the platform, it just simply, captured my spirits on every level. It just showed you that the bonds between trainers and whales is so strong, that it’s indescribable. This segment was not the first time I saw Dawn perform in my week I was in Orlando, On my first night, she did a segment in the nighttime killer whale show  Shamu Rocks. During that segment, I can remember her interacting with a killer whale named Taima and her young calf Malia in most unique fashion that was very hard to explain. During that segment,Taima would allow little Malia to interact with Dawn because, maybe she knew that while she could have easily turned on her in order to protect her calf. Instead, Taima allowed Dawn to go near Malia thus, interact with her while her mother watched carefully. Back to that rainy afternoon,  after the Believe show ended, I asked my camp counselor if I could speak
to a trainer. Indeed, the counselor said “yes”; so, I went down the narrow stairs and there was Dawn standing next to a small platform. When I went up to her, I introduced myself to her before we started speaking to each other about how great life at SeaWorld was, her whales for like a few minutes before I complimented to her about her performance during the show. After I arranged to have a photo of us together be taken, my counselor called me back to rejoin my group before I hugged her good-bye. It was a very special time indeed.

Following in her footsteps…..

Here's me Interacting with Juno the beluga whale at Mystic Aquarium during a "Train-a-Whale" Program I took part in on November 13th, 2011.

If there was one thing Dawn and I shared in common, it was the fact that our passion for marine life and hopes and dreams to one day work with animals began at an early age. In my case, my dream of wanting to become an animal trainer began when I was only five years old when a dolphin trainer took me back stage of the Whale and Dolphin Stadium to meet a bottlenose dolphin named Jenny. In the case of Dawn Brancheau, she decided to set her heart out on wanting to be an animal trainer after watching a Shamu show at SeaWorld when she was only nine years old. That dream did come true 16 years later for her in 1994 before she went on to train killer whales two years later in 1996. However, several years early when Dawn worked at a marine park in New Jersey, Dawn’s passion for caring for all the animals in her expanded when she provided 24/7 care for a newborn sea lion pup. From there, Dawn grew more compassion for ever animal she worked with. For me on the other hand, I still continue to follow her footsteps by getting a lot of experience with as many aquatic animals as possible, which I have several years of now. Still, after all those years, I continue to work towards that dream of one day working with animals. Only this time, I will honor Dawn’s legacy with every experience I acquire with every marine mammal I get to either work or interact with or through my internships at Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

My very first experience with animals that started it all.....That was in 1997.

Bring Back The Waterworks at SeaWorld

Waterworks help stimulate the whales' everyday needs as well as, develop strong relationships with their trainers.

Since Dawn’s death last February, OSHA (U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has fined SeaWorld for “willful endangerment” of trainers who work with killer whales in SeaWorld’s animal collection by performing waterworks tasks with them. Despite being the first death in SeaWorld’s 4 decade history (though there had been similar accidents with killer whales at other marine life facilities), OSHA now wants the trainers to no longer perform waterworks with their killer whales at all. OSHA’s citations on SeaWorld is completely unfounded and reports that accompanies these citations contain numerous errors such as details and events that led up to the accident. This also includes the number of witnesses as well.  OSHA itself has failed to cite and regulate other risky professions too. I believe for OSHA, citing SeaWorld over Dawn’s death was simply a way to seek the media-grabbing political ploy by a government agency in an attempt to justify its existence. To make matters worst, OSHA staffers virtually have no experience working with captive animals.  This has been noted back with a 2006 inspection on SeaWorld San Diego following an accident that took place  there when OSHA admitted to it’s lack of expertise to properly assess the working conditions there.

Why is Waterworks important for the killer whales?

Trainers virtually know the risks of working with such large animals like killer whales. However, this is what keeps them going with what they love.

To maintain close relationships with their killer whales, SeaWorld trainers spent the majority of their work time( beside hourly observation, food prep, and regular dry-work training and husbandry sessions) being in the water with them. These in-water interactions not only helped build strong trusts between trainer and whale, but it also stimulated them. Another benefit from waterworks is that some medical examinations require both trainers and vets to have very close contact with the animals in order to take good care of them and ensure that they are healthy. Yet, upon the citation, OSHA has chosen to alter both SeaWorld operating and animal care practices in the name of “employment safety”. As a result, without close contact of any kind, the whales will suffer as indicated by the sudden death of a middle-aged killer whale named Kalina in October 2010. Many believe that this death could have been prevented if SeaWorld staff were allowed to monitor animal health based on their own animal care guidelines, which is now, under OSHA’s de-facto control. If a judge were to rule in OSHA’s favor during an up-coming hearing on the matter this month, then SeaWorld would not be the only zoological facility to suffer from this citation, other zoos and aquariums with large animals like elephants, big cats, apes, and and rhinos would suffer with SeaWorld. This would also include veterinarians, who could be prevented from properly examining domesticated animals such as cats and dogs and sick stranded marine animals such as dolphins, and sea turtles as a precedent.

Without the trainers performing in the water with the whales, attendance at SeaWorld will drop. This will not only be detrimental to the local economies, but also place financial restrictions on SeaWorld's research and rescue operations.

What do SeaWorld and other zoo and aquarium patrons, like myself want to see come out of this month’s OSHA hearing on SeaWorld….

1) Have OSHA’s citation of SeaWorld for “willful endangerment” be reversed, overturned, or overruled.

2) Pass federal legislation aimed at reforming OSHA by restricting OSHA’s ability to regulate professions that involve contact with animals.

3) Establish a waver system, in which employees whose jobs are altered by OSHA rulings could voluntarily opt-out of the ruling and continue to perform their jobs under pre-OSHA ruling conditions.

4) Launch a federal inquiry and investigation into OSHA, OSHA director David Michaels, and OSHA investigators involved in the SeaWorld citation for potential abuse of power, by singling out SeaWorld with excessive penalties.

If you want to see trainers back in the water with their killer whales:

Please sign the petition at: (Big thanks to Alberto Branado for creating this petiton)

Sample letter to write to lawmakers, ambassadors, and the president:

Learn more about benefits of waterworks with killer whales at SeaWorld through Stephanie Tracey’s interesting essay on this topic (great essay Stephanie!):