Friday, September 27, 2013


Even though this blog is about big cats I feel the movie Blackfish should share in the spotlight. Blackfish is all about Tilikum a 12,000 pound whale who lives at SeaWorld. From 1988 to 2009 their were over 100 reports of incidents with whales and trainers. This is Tilikum's story in 1983 the only way to get Orca whales in to captivity was capturing them from the wild and Tilikum was no exception. Orca Whales live in pods, pods include a whale's family similar to a lion pride. Tilikum was just a baby when he was separated from his pod and moved to a marine park called Sealand of the Pacific. He was placed with two other female orcas, they didn't get along to well. Sealand of the Pacific was very cruel and used food deprivation to train their animals, not giving the orcas food for days unless they did the commands asked during a show. Trainers were worried the orcas might chew their way threw the nets or activist might cut the nets, the nets were the only thing separating the whales from the Pacific ocean. So stop this from happening they put the whales in to extremely small metal pens they were 28 feet in diameter keeping in mind Tilikum is about 22 feet long. This made the whales stressed and they took it out on one another. In 1991 Tilikum was doing a normal performance, a trainer slipped in the tank no one is clear about what happened but the trainer was killed by the whales and Tilikum was directly involved with the death he's even believed to have killed the trainer.
Tilikum was moved in 1992 to SeaWorld Orlando Florida, SeaWorld used positive reinforcement to train their whales. Even though SeaWorld had bigger enclosures it can never match the wild and is hundreds of miles less than his native habitat. The whales at SeaWorld did not like Tilikum often teasing and injuring him, in the wild Tilikum could get away from the other whales but in captivity he was trapped never getting a break from them. Tilikum was an excellent performer and not to mention the biggest whale in captivity. SeaWorld didn't properly inform the trainers about Tilikum's history they said he wasn't directly involved in the death of a trainer at Sealand of the Pacific. Tilikum was involved in many attacks with his trainers but so were the other whales so it wasn't a big surprise even though some of them were near deaths of trainers. In 1999 Tilikum had killed another person, this person had snuck in after hours, he was found the next morning dead on top of Tilikum. Tilikum was still allowed to swim with trainers and participate during the shows.
He attacked many trainers since them but his last attack was on February 24th, 2010 when he killed Dawn Brancheau, during a Dine with Shamu Show. After this Tilikum was seperated from the other whales put in a small enclosure and only allowed to perform one stunt at the shows. This was his third death because of this death a policy was made that banned trainers from entering the water with the whales. SeaWorld says that Tilikum mistook her ponytail as a toy thinking he was playing with a toy not a person. But her injuries say other wise it is more likely that she was dragged in by her arm, and all trainers had their hair in ponytails so it is unlikely he randomly became interested in a ponytail when he was so used to seeing them.
Tilikum has 21 offspring only 11 are still alive. The movie also talks about how the mothers are separated from their calfs and if SeaWorld really supported natural family bonds why do they separate the calfs. They show how stressed they are when they are separated at one point they had to call in a marine biologist because one of the orca mothers had made noises never heard before while her calf was being separated from her, turns out they were distress calls made to be heard miles away to keep in touch with her calf which was being driven away. The movie talks about how they have to throw nets between them because the baby won't leave its moms side. And how the baby and mom are in distress sometimes it takes weeks until they start to calm down. Now Tilikum spends his life pacing his enclosure, bored.
Is this how SeaWorld should treat their animals? Keeping them in small enclosures just for our pleasure? When it is so obvious they are stressed and bored? They belong in the wild where they can roam free having miles of space doing what whales naturally do. Is riding on the back of a whale natural for the whale or is just entertainment for us? I love SeaWorld I always have but this movie has opened my eyes to the truth I would love to go back to SeaWorld but I would only feel comfortable doing this if they got rid of the whales, placing them in to sanctuaries, and rehabilitating the babies back to the wild. Blackfish the movie has done a great job in giving the whales some justice and I feel bad for Tilikum there is so much more to his story than meets the eye. This is just my opinion based on the Blackfish the movie for more info go to

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Big Cat Rescue Summer Camp!

I know this is a little late but I went to Big Cat Rescue's summer camp for the 4th year in a row! I had a great time! We saw so many animals and even made some enrichment for the cats! This year was especially exciting because it was also the week of my birthday!
The first thing we did was do a full tour of the sanctuary I got to see all of the cats that I haven't seen in a year. I was super excited!
This is Joseph and Sasha and than Zabu

On one of the days the Florida Aquarium came in and let us dissect a squid! Sorry no pictures of that!
We even got the chance to talk to Big Cat Rescue's Vet and Founder Carole Baskin!!! It was super exciting I loved hearing about all the rescue updates and their perspective of the Big Cats! I want to be a vet in the future so it was really cool to talk to the vet and hear her daily life working with Big Cats! During the week we got to prepare some of the food for the Big Cats, my group worked on preparing food for some of the Big Cats who had specific meals. Like some of them needed food with out bones in it because they were to old, we prepared food like that. It was so fun and really helped out the volunteers. By the end of the week we had made some enrichment for TJ the tiger. TJ had a habit of stalking Big Cat Rescue's golf carts, some of the volunteers wondered if he ever actually caught one what would he do? So we figured we would make him one made of cardboard, and covered it in smelly spices and meat to see what he would do. It also allowed him to have some fun! :)

TJ vs The Golf Cart!!!

The little kid group was also working on their own enrichment project with Saber the Black Leopard they had made a giant Lizard for him! He was a little nervous at first and was determined to take all the meat inside. But an hour later he was sleeping inside the giant tube!

 During the week I went it was also Discovery Channels Shark Week! And Big Cat Rescue celebrated by giving some cats shark inspired enrichment! It was such a special opportunity to watch some of the cats enjoy even more enrichment!
The first one was a Leopard they hung a shark in a tree we were so excited to watch!

Than Joseph and Sasha got a shark but Sasha was really nervous with the big group of people watching so Joseph was the only one who came out to see what we had brought!

 He was so proud of his enrichment he decided to let every one else know! You can see Sasha in the background roaring with him it was so cool to be that close to them!

The keepers showed us how they did operant and conditioning with the cats!

 I had a really grrrrrreat time with the cats and can't wait to go next year!
For more info go to