Page last updated at 04:03 GMT, Friday, 26 February 2010

SeaWorld killer whale 'can stay' at Orlando park


Dawn Brancheau's sister Diane Gross said SeaWorld ''was her dream''

The killer whale that attacked and drowned its trainer will remain at the Florida marine park where the incident happened, officials said.

SeaWorld said its staff would continue to interact with the whale, named Tilikum, despite calls to release or destroy it.

Trainer Dawn Brancheau, 40, died after the orca grabbed her from a poolside platform and dragged her underwater.

The Orlando park added that it would be reviewing its safety procedures.

It said that in the meantime it was suspending all orca shows.

"We're going to make any changes we have to, to make sure this doesn't happen again," said Chuck Tompkins, chief of animal training at SeaWorld parks.

He said Tilikum would not survive in the wild because it has been captive for so long.

He added that destroying the whale was not an option because it was an important part of the breeding program at SeaWorld and a companion to seven other whales there.

Horrified onlookers

Tilikum - who weighs five tonnes - was also reportedly involved in the death of a female trainer in Canada in 1991.

Other orcas were also said to have attacked trainers at SeaWorld parks in 2006 and 2004.

The attack happened on Wednesday in front of horrified onlookers at the end of a show.

Whales in tanks at SeaWorld
SeaWorld said it is reviewing the way its trainers work with whales

Witness Sue Nichols, 67, said Ms Brancheau was petting the whale and talking to him.

"Then all of a sudden he just reached up. He got her in the water, and he took her underwater, and he had her under for quite a while," she said.

"He came up out of the water, and he had her in his mouth."

She said an alarm sounded and park employees scattered around the pool with a net as audience members were rushed away.

On Thursday, Ms Brancheau's sister, Diane Gross, said her family was in shock.

She said her sister had loved the whales as though they were her children.

"She loved all of them," Ms Gross said, according to the Associated Press.

"They all had personalities, good days and bad days."

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