It's a few years ago now that I reviewed Blackfish, the documentary film that exposed the grim reality behind Seaworld and other marine entertainment parks (you can read my review here).
I bought Death at Seaworld soon after watching the film, but just didn't feel up to reading it until recently, given the intensely grim subject matter.
The book is much less sensationalist than the film and meticulously researched, giving the reader priveliged insights into the reality of performing water mammals. The book exposes the cramped conditions, the lack of proper health and safety regulations, the repeated attacks and near misses made by marine mammals (particularly orcas) on their trainers. It goes into great detail of the legal battles around Sea World, particularly the fatalities that have occured (orca Tilikum killed three trainers) and the attempts to release some of the orcas back into the wild.
Orcas live in complex social groups in the wild and roam over large distances across the ocean - they are entirely not suited to a life in captivity confined to a small pool with little interaction with others of their species.
Death at Seaworld is incredibly detailed and not an easy read in some senses, but it is always engaging and engrossing, written almost in the style of a thriller and guaranteed to keep you turning the pages, even as your heart is sinking.
Read this and despair at the human inability to coexist meaningfully with other intelligent creatures.
Death at Sea World by David Kirby published by St Martin's Griffin.
A book review for 30 Days Wild and Orca Month.