This is me at age six with Taima, one of the Orca Whales at Sea World Orlando.
I grew up around these animals. One night, after the park had closed, while my father finished up his work, I played catch with a fish and a 14,000 pound whale nicknamed Tilly, the whale now notorious for the incident last year with Dawn Brancheau. I would throw the fish into the main tank; he would let it float to the bottom, swim down and pick it up delicately, rub it against the glass in front of my hands, and toss it back over the wall for me to catch again.
I grew up knowing all their names. I knew how much the trainers loved them; and how they never forgot that they were wild animals.
I knew that no one was allowed to swim with Tilly; not because he was violent, but because he had witnessed two other whales’ violence at a young age and Sea World would not take the risk of finding out if he had been traumatized.
I knew that the morning when they found him with a man on his back, dead, he was swimming around his tank frantically making distress calls. A mentally ill man had climbed into his tank overnight, died of hypothermia, and Tilly didn’t know what to do, other than lift him to air where he wouldn’t drown.
I knew Dawn. And I know that seeing PETA protesting outside Sea World this morning would have broken her heart.
But most of all, I know that an animal the size of an elephant that can give kisses to the cheek of a six year old girl is not a monster.
Staying off Tumblr until the heat from Sea World’s accusers dies down; the misinformation and ignorance tears me apart.