'Blackfish': The 60-second backstory

NEED TO KNOW
  • SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau was killed by a 12,000-pound whale named Tilikum
  • Watch the premiere of the landmark event ‘CNN Films: Blackfish’ on CNN Thursday, October 24 at 9 p.m. ET
  • Jane Velez-Mitchell’s week of special coverage 'Beyond Blackfish: JVM Investigates' airs each night October 22-25 at 7 p.m. ET on HLN

Be sure to watch Jane Velez-Mitchell’s week of special coverage "Beyond Blackfish: JVM Investigates" each night October 22-25 at 7 p.m. ET on HLN.

In 2010, SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau was killed by the 12,000-pound killer whale, Tilikum. Brancheau was an experienced trainer with SeaWorld, having worked with orcas for years. But in "Blackfish," the filmmakers say this tragedy was not an isolated incident or freak accident. The filmmakers say there are dozens of reports of killer whales in captivity harming trainers and they even say Tilikum was responsible for the death of another woman years earlier.

The filmmakers of "Blackfish" spoke to multiple experts and former trainers and go back decades in their investigation into what happens to these highly intelligent animals when they are held in captivity.

SeaWorld, in a statement to HLN, said it disagrees with the film's premise: “'Blackfish' is billed as a documentary, but instead of a fair and balanced treatment of a complex subject, the film is inaccurate and misleading and, regrettably, exploits a tragedy that remains a source of deep pain for Dawn Brancheau’s family, friends and colleagues.

To promote its bias that killer whales should not be maintained in a zoological setting, the film paints a distorted picture that withholds from viewers key facts about SeaWorld – among them, that SeaWorld is one of the world’s most respected zoological institutions, that SeaWorld rescues, rehabilitates and returns to the wild hundreds of wild animals every year, and that SeaWorld commits millions of dollars annually to conservation and scientific research," SeaWorld says in its statement.

Michael Scarpuzzi, SeaWorld’s vice president of Zoological Operations, also wrote an opinion editorial in the San Diego Union Tribune, “SeaWorld’s benefits to conservation, research ignored” which you can read here

Watch the premiere of the landmark event "CNN Films: Blackfish" on CNN Thursday, October 24 at 9 p.m. ET.

For more on this story, watch Jane Velez-Mitchell weeknights at 7 p.m. ET on HLN. Follow the show on Facebook, and follow Jane on Twitter.

 

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