ORLANDO (CBS4) – A 6-ton killer whale that killed one of its trainers last year performed for the first time since the incident at SeaWorld in Orlando.
The orca named Tilikum participated in the park’s “Believe” show Wednesday morning, more than a year since drowning 40-year-old Dawn Brancheau during a performance last February.
Plans to get trainers back in the water with the whales progressed earlier this month despite findings last summer by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration that accused SeaWorld of recklessly putting trainers in danger.
SeaWorld Animal Training Curator Kelly Flaherty Clark says they “feel it is an important component of Tilikum’s physical, social and mental enrichment” to be back in the water.
Sea World officials announced in February that trainers at the company’s three U.S. marine parks will begin limited water work with whales. The interactions were to be restricted initially to small medical pools equipped with false-bottom floors that can be lifted out of the water.
No trainer has been allowed in the water during whale shows since Brancheau’s death. They remained out of the pool Wednesday for the performance in front capacity crowd at the park’s 5,000-seat Shamu Stadium. Outside the park about a dozen people protested the park having Tilikum and other whales living in captivity.
The marine park is working on a brand new killer whale show called “One Ocean” which will replace the “Believe” show.
“One Ocean” is scheduled to premiere at SeaWorld Orlando at the end of April, SeaWorld San Diego on Memorial Day weekend and SeaWorld San Antonio in June.
SeaWorld designed the new show for trainers to work exclusively from the stage, instead of in the water with the killer whales.
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