Of Course Killer Whales Kill

As tragic as Sea World trainer Dawn Brancheau's death is, nobody should be surprised by it. Mansfield Frazier on the dangerous idiocy of putting nature's predators in watery zoos.

02.25.10 8:41 AM ET

Maybe I’m missing something here, but they are called killer whales, aren’t they? Now, I know that some people are going to get pissed at me because I’m not all choked up and weepy over the death of 40-year-old Dawn Brancheau, who was just killed by an orca at Sea World. But there’s a lesson that needs to be learned here: Don’t imprison God’s creatures, even in watery zoos.

Of course I’m terribly sympathetic in regards to the ending of any human life too soon. But, on the other hand, when people flagrantly ignore the universal rules that govern the interactions between man and other creatures on the planet and fail to comprehend there will sometimes be a price to pay, I’m dumbfounded.

Orcas are feral animals, not like the domesticated ones God gave us dominion over.

This incident is being characterized by the folks at Sea World as an “accident,” which it certainly is not, since this particular orca, named Tilikum (isn’t that cute? they’re given names, just like pets!), has caused the death of two other humans in the past. Why? Because they don’t want the public waking up to the fact that such exhibits are inherently dangerous — and cruel to boot. They don’t want their meal tickets cancelled.

Orcas are feral animals, not like the domesticated ones God gave us dominion over. They are supposed to be swimming free in their natural environment, not imprisoned in a tank and reduced to mere things that folks pay to gawk at. And no matter how much “training” they receive, their nature can never be changed; they can always, like lions and tigers and bears, revert back to their instinctive behaviors where anything that is not of their species is either a threat … or lunch.

According to published reports, “In September 1906, William Hornaday, director of the Bronx Zoo in New York—with the agreement of Madison Grant, head of the New York Zoological Society—had Ota Benga, a Congolese pygmy, displayed in a cage with the chimpanzees, then with an orangutan named Dohong, and a parrot. The exhibit was intended as an example of the "missing link" between the orangutan and white man. It triggered protests from the city's clergymen, but the public reportedly flocked to see it.”

Man has been imprisoning other species for as long as there have been wars … and, yes, there is an evil connection between the two behaviors: Call it Karma, bad juju, call it whatever you want, but every now and then Mother Nature extracts her price. Dawn Brancheau just paid it.

Mansfield Frazier is a native Clevelander and former newspaper editor. His regular column can be seen on An avid gardener, he resides in the Hough neighborhood of Cleveland with his wife Brenda and their two dogs, Gypsy and Ginger.