US SeaWorld animals live in ‘desperation that could lead to deadly attacks’

Killer Whales trapped at US SeaWorld are damned to "lives of quiet desperation" and the results can lead to "violent behaviour and deadly attacks", claims a former trainer at the attraction.

Animal rights activists have spent years campaigning for the release of orcas from America's popular marine-based theme park in Orlando, Florida.

SeaWorld announced in 2016 that it would no longer breed the animals but pledged to keep the remaining ones to continue "providing visitors to our parks with experiences that matter".

John Hargrove joined the fight for orcas in captivity to enjoy better conditions 10 years ago after leaving his job training them at SeaWorld.

He pulled back the curtain on their suffering at the park in bombshell 2013 documentary Blackfish.

Speaking in the documentary, the 49-year-old said: "Physical and psychological damage endured by human prisoners in solitary confinement is well documented.

"Orcas at amusement parks such as SeaWorld suffer the same fate.

"I can tell you from my 14 years of experience that I personally witnessed the orcas – as well as other dolphins and marine animals – suffer the same physical and psychological trauma."

John added: "Imagine spending your entire life trapped in a small enclosure."

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He also insisted the orca, Tilikum, that famously killed his colleague Dawn Brancheau in 2002 "wasn't the villain".

He said: "He is not the villain in this story. He's also not the only orca at SeaWorld to kill a trainer.

"We had countless serious injuries and near fatalities during my career, caused by many different orcas.

"Confinement causes not only chronic health issues but also extreme stress that leads to violent behaviour and deadly attacks."

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According to John, more than 40 orcas and 300 dolphins and whales have died at SeaWorld.

The ex-trainer said the causes range from pneumonia, infections, traumatic injuries, encephalitis, heart failure, intestinal gangrene and "other ailments caused by extreme confinement".

He said the creatures also break their teeth chewing concrete ledges in their enclosures and cause immense harm slamming their heads against the walls of their watery cages.

Meanwhile, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) is urging Brits to boycott package holidays where trips to the controversial park are included.

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Tripadvisor, Virgin Holidays, and British Airways Holidays already ban promotion of parks that confine orcas.

On its website Seaworld says: "Now, SeaWorld invites you to connect in an inspiring new way with the ocean’s most powerful predator.

"Discover the importance of play for orcas and dive deeper into their masterful hunting techniques. Learn about SeaWorld’s commitment for the killer whales in our care."

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The gory details of experienced SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau's death in the jaws of a killer whale are not for the faint of heart.

She died of 'drowning and traumatic injuries' after she was mauled by Tilikum, a 5.4 tonne orca measuring more than 22ft in length.

The 41-year-old was snatched and dragged into the water during a live show so quickly that no one saw it happening – not even the trainer working as her 'spotter'.

The Daily Star has approached SeaWorld for a comment.

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