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Shouka Six Flags Killer Whale Attacks Trainer

July 12, 2012

The question of whether or not working in close proximity with killer whales has been all over the news since 2010 when Tilikum, the killer whale, killed his trainer Dawn Brancheau during a public performance at SeaWorld Orlando. After this incident Six Flags was asked for a statement as to whether they will make any changes regarding working with their killer whale Shouka. Six Flags stated Shouka has a good history with her trainers but now the tables have turned.

A new video released on youtube captured Shouka, a 19 year old captive born orca, attacking her trainer during a public performance. The footage was uploaded on July 7th, 2012 by  using an Android phone. 

The short clip of the original footage shows Shouka leaping onto the main stage of her show tank lunging towards her trainer which eventually leads to the trainer being lifted into the air and knocked back into the open door area that leads to the back of the stage. Shouka continues to leap two more times onto the stage even after the trainer is out of our view. This is the first time Shouka has been captured being aggressive towards her trainers by a spectator during a public performance. The show was immediatley cancelled after the incident.

Here is the original video clip

We have uploaded the original video and slowed down the actual contact Shouka made to the trainer. This footage shows what happened a bit better as it widened the view from the original Android phone. We also added light to the original footage which has made it a little easier to see the trainer and what is occuring.

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom has not made a public statement regarding this incident between Shouka and her trainer but they have stepped up their safety measures. During a regular show, one of Shouka’s trainer always stands on the stage along with the annoucer. The stage is now empty during the show and trainers have placed themselves near the audience behind safety bars. There is no contact with Shouka during the show…no hugging, no kisses, no touching, just fish thrown at her.

Shouka is rumored to be rather moody & aggressive towards her trainers at times and no water work has been done publicly with Shouka since her move to the United States in 2002. Almost a year ago the male bottlenose dolphin named Merlin that was living with Shouka was removed leaving Shouka to be singly housed with no animal companion, which is a violation of the Animal Welfare Act. Other orcas that have been housed alone have been known to display more aggressive behaviors towards their trainers. Once these singly housed orcas were placed with another orca the aggression ceased from them. Orcas by nature are extremely social beings. With no companion and now limited contact with her trainers, what will this do to Shouka mentally?

There has been a huge amount of public pressure placed on Six Flags Discovery Kingdom along with APHIS to enforce the law and find Shouka a compatible companion over the last year. Upon inquiry to APHIS regarding Shouka’s situation along with the clear violation of the law they have stated that Six Flags Discovery Kingdom is working to find a solution. The matter of Shouka being singly housed may be something Six Flags Discovery Kingdom is working towards but how long is this matter going to take to solve? The bigger question is how long will APHIS continue to allow this matter to go unresolved. The problems Six Flags Discovery Kingdom is facing is how do they met the needs of Shouka or what do they do with Shouka. Shouka is on a breeding loan to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom from MarineLand France, yet this is the 10th year Shouka has been here in the United States with no off spring or known attempts for breeding and almost half of her time spent in the U.S has been in isolation. How long will MarineLand France allow Shouka to remain under these conditions of solitary confinement? Shouka has some family members in France. The biggest problem is there are no orcas to place with Shouka. All the captive orcas are owned by other parks and no one is taking from the wild any longer. SeaWorld Inc. seems to get first dibs on any orcas that do come from the wild such as the case with Morgan. In the ten years Shouka has been in captivity here in the United States Six Flags Discovery Kingdom has not been able to obtain a orca companion for Shouka. It has been scientifically proven orcas have high social needs. Shouka living alone is the equivalent to a human living in solitary confinement with another species other than humans being their care takers. Shouka is another example that Orcas do not belong in captivity, as humans just can not meet their needs.

To Learn more about Shouka’s situation and what you can do CLICK HERE

YOU CAN SIGN A PETITION TO FIND SHOUKA A COMPANION BY CLICKING HERE

To learn more about the history of killer whales in captivity, their social behaviour and their wild counterparts, pick up a copy of the upcoming book by New York Times bestselling author, David Kirby.

 
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37 Comments leave one →
  1. July 13, 2012 12:18 am

    It was bound to happen, and these water parks know it! I’m wondering how many “attacks” there have been on trainers when the public was not watching. The “show” is going to get pretty boring for visitors…”let’s go watch humans throw dead fish at a whale”. As usual I’m sure Six Flags will have no comment. Oh if only these creatures could speak…..

    • Troy permalink
      August 2, 2012 6:18 pm

      Shouka has spoken…she’s depressed…Shouka can not live in the wild, never has…while I can see some validity in educating people on these great animals these situations don’t further that cause and I’m not for putting them in these pools…there’s other ways to educate and learn form these animals..that said Shouka and other whales like her need the best situation they can for what’s been dealt to them..Six Flags needs to step up!…the longer she cpntinues to communicate her unhappiness the worse it’s going to get for her and everyone else

    • March 27, 2013 11:22 am

      it is sad what humans do to the animals God has blessed us with.As long as people continue to go to circuses,animal shows etc there will always be abuse.Shouka needs to go back to her family in FRANCe.i agree SIX FLAGS needs to step up

  2. July 13, 2012 12:46 am

    Great post! Love love love it!

  3. Coralie permalink
    July 13, 2012 10:10 am

    I’m from France and i hate marineland antibes. They knew what they were doing sending shouka away. I wish i could do something…
    It’s sad but i sometimes hope that another trainer gets killed. This may things change… Who Knows…
    Poor little girl.

    • Jenn permalink
      July 19, 2012 1:26 pm

      That is a TERRIBLE thing to say and you should be ashamed.

      • Ariana permalink
        October 30, 2013 5:14 pm

        I also hope all trainers get killed. They are sick people, training intelligent beings mundane tricks to do for our amusement. Get over yourself
        and look at the bigger picture.

  4. July 13, 2012 8:14 pm

    Definitely not surprising that this would happen. Even trainers on stage are not safe from supposedly “gentle” whales.

  5. Orcinus Orca permalink
    July 14, 2012 4:58 pm

    With my experience with Cetaceans I’d gladly stay with her to keep her company since staff apparently doesn’t want to. Sadly with such facilities I doubt they would do something like that. You’d think staff would want to do it if you “Believe” some of the things they say about their jobs. A job I wanted at one time but then I personally got to know Kotar, Katina, Kasatka and Canuck 2 and they changed opinion on that.

    Isolating such a social intelligent animal it’s no wonder they get upset. Marine parks have no consideration for their social structure and play “musical chairs” with their groups almost every day. I observed this almost every visit to the petting pool. Their agitation was plainly obvious to me on many occasions. Always it was when I noticed a new Cetacean in the pool.

    Imagine if the government came to your street and without any concern for your feelings or what you might have to say or want, shuffled everyone like a deck of cards and then picked random people and placed them back in random houses expecting you to just continue on as if nothing ever happened.

    Isolation is about the worst thing you can do to such an Intelligent Social Individual. Such isolation in the wild is usually a death sentence.

    Humans seem to care about the social groups of other captive animals in zoos or wild animal parks. Why the apparent lack of the same concern for Cetaceans? It’s not like there aren’t any experts out there who would know these things.

  6. July 18, 2012 3:27 pm

    Enough is enough!! More than enough money has been made by these abominable Seaworld places at the expense of the Killer Whale……time to stop imprisoning Orcas and dolphins! They belong in the Oceans of our planet, NOT performing and living in tanks! These predators must be freed before any more of them have to die in captivity. How in god’s name can anyone think for a single second, a giant whose normal habitat is thousands of miles of Ocean with a family (pod) hunting and doing what killer whales do, can live a healthy and happy life in a large/deeper than normal swimming pool??

    ORCA’S CAN NOT, happily!!!

  7. July 25, 2012 7:39 pm

    Wow this is post was very interested, thank you for this information. Very well written. Regards

  8. Troy permalink
    July 27, 2012 7:42 pm

    To be clear…I was at that performance, 2nd row, that Shouka “attacked” the trainer. The footage is horrible. Shouka did not touch the trainer. She did lunge at her and the trainer jumped back, no doubt. She entered the main arena very aggressively and it was clear by the timing of the pre show and other items she was not in any capacity to perform. They should have cancelled the show before this happened. Also, the other whales that died at the park in Vallejo were Yaka and Vigga. They both were “in the breeding program”. Part of the reson they passed was due to complications related to trying to breed them. I have been scared to death they will try to breed Shouka as well and she will suffer the same fate. That said, I truly believe there’s some mistreatment of Shouka and she definately needs companionship. There have been other performances I have been at and she is “off” or mis-behaving. Bottom line… I understand the point of the article but to color the truth of what happened to other whales and during the performance to forward their agenda is unfair. To say Shouka is suppossed to be in a breeding program and then mention other whales dying without connecting the two is using both sides of the argument. All parties need to have truthful dialogue and quit with the PR grandstanding. Shouka was born in captivity and needs to have the best living situation she can. In my mind that should be an improved pool/facility and companionship. She has such a great personality and when she was right was one of the most magestic and beautiful orcas I have seen perfom.

    • Ariana permalink
      October 30, 2013 5:16 pm

      Disgusting. I’ve been to a couple of her shows….I hope she amused you.

  9. Allen Connel permalink
    August 1, 2012 2:35 am

    It’s incredible the way you were able to manufacture so many lies about these animals.  Did you just think of them or did they come to you during one of your drug induced comas?   Of course, this message will never see the light of day. You don’t have the courage to publish a post that is contrary to your own opinion.  Fortunately, the only people that read this garbage are drugged out extremist like yourself. 
     

    • August 1, 2012 2:49 am

      Your message did receive the light of day. Not sure what lies you seem to think we are manufacturing.

    • August 1, 2012 4:28 am

      Allen, No one said that Yaka and Viga were being “bred with a male”, only that they were in the “breeding program”. Why stoop to calling someone names? And I may add, that you were apparently reading this “garbage”. Please enlighten us as to what makes you an expert on this subject?

  10. Allen Connel permalink
    August 1, 2012 2:39 am

    Sorry folks, Yaka and Viga were never in a breeding program. They were both female. Artificial insemination was in its infancy.

  11. Allen Connel permalink
    August 1, 2012 9:42 pm

    People on this site made very specific comments stating that Yaka & Viga’s deaths were attributed to their participation in a breeding program. There was no male, there was no attempt at artificial insemination. What breeding program were they in and how did it kill them?
    With regards to my credentials; unlike most of you that seem to have very strong opinions with little or no experience, I actually have many years of experience working with captive and wild cetaceans including orcas. (I’m old) I’ve worked with the USFWS rescuing manatees. I also have a degree in biology which quite frankly, wasn’t near as useful as the hands on experience.
    If Wendy is going to allow my posts to stand, I will be happy to point out the many fabrications on this and other similar websites. I’m at work and I need a day or two before I’ll have time to write. I think I’ll start with your buddies from the Cove in Taiji. I’ll be back…

    • August 1, 2012 10:12 pm

      We have never mentioned that Yaka & Vigga were part of a breeding program. Yaka died from pneumonia from an upper respiratory condition & Vigga from a heart failure/lung & brain abcess & pnemonia as far as I know.

      If you feel you need to utilize your time to critique others, have at it…personally I have better things to do.

  12. Allen Connel permalink
    August 2, 2012 1:34 am

    Au contraire ! If you look above my first post, Troy clearly states “Part of the reason they passed was due to complications related to trying to breed them”.
    With regards to me “critiquing” people; isn’t that your full time job ? That’s exactly what this entire blog does. It accuses people and companies of animal abuse with little or no evidence.
    I have no problem with you being an activist. Ironically, I agree with many of the things you stand for. But there are good people and good organizations that are being hurt because of the fabrications used to make your point.
    Do you remember the scientists that were caught lying about global warming? I understand their motivation but disagree with their methods. Global warming is real. Humans are the main contributor. Unfortunately, their dishonesty hurt the cause and gave conservatives a soap box to preach from.

    • August 2, 2012 1:44 am

      **WE** stated nothing about Yaka & Vigga…Troy is not part of us. Fabrications to make a point about Shouka being aggressive towards her trainer or that Six Flags is violating federal law by keeping her alone every single day for almost a year? That’s fact and that is animal abuse.

      • Troy permalink
        August 2, 2012 6:11 pm

        We’re in the same boat that Six Flags is not in compliance…the points we differ on are the facts of the “attack” (I was there…others base their view on it off of second hand knowledge) and the reality that Yaka and Vigga were in a hormone study with the purpose of breeding Orcas, dependent on study outcomes…I can see where my comments put people into their tangents …for that I can only apologize…I’m simply trying to get to the truth…bottom line all three of the Orcas being discussed have been mistreated

    • August 2, 2012 2:40 am

      Allen, Could you share with us some of the reasons that keeping Orca in captivity is a good thing? Who is it good for? Could you point out the fabrications of which you speak? This blog is not about global warming, it’s about keeping Orca captive for the entertainment or humans. Do you believe that Shouka is content in her current living situation? I like to hear both sides of the “discussion”.

    • August 20, 2012 9:02 pm

      Allen, I guess you didn’t follow the climate controversy through to the end of the independent investigations, because the scientists involved have since been cleared of any wrongdoing and completely vindicated. Not that you should be blamed for that; that sort of news isn’t quite as sensational as that drummed up by a bunch of anti-science conspiracy theorists, so you had to actually follow the story closely. It has been over two years since the results of the investigation came out. You can read about the conclusions at the Columbia Journalism Review: http://www.cjr.org/the_observatory/wanted_climate_frontpager.php In the meantime, t has come to light that there has been an organized misinformation campaign waged against the findings of climate scientists and funded by fossil-fuel interests, not surprisingly.
      You say you are “old” and have a “degree in biology” plus “many years of experience working with captive and wild cetaceans including orcas.” I am genuinely curious as to your specific experience because you seem uninterested in the behavioral side of orca biology. You state, “Conservation should be about populations not individuals,” and you are 100% correct. This is an animal welfare issue, not a conservation issue. I would hope you would agree that animal welfare is a legitimate pursuit by serious people. The captive orca issue is of more serious interest and emphasis than dog or cat welfare because of the unique social and behavioral characteristics and intelligence of these animals and the overwhelming research findings regarding the importance of their social relationships in the wild. I live next to the Puget Sound, which forms part of the range of a federally endangered population of orcas formally known as the Southern Resident Killer Whales numbering less than 100 individuals at this time (some of these being over 90 years old). In contrast to the marine-mammal-eating Bigg’s orcas that often share the same waters, these individuals eat exclusively salmon–the two types do not interact. They have been followed as uniquely identified individuals for more than 30 years–I receive near-daily emails on the observations of the killer whales in this region. You can learn more about the southern residents at http://www.whaleresearch.com/about.html if interested. Quite a lot has been learned about orca behavior in the past three decades, as you can imagine. Dr. Naomi Rose, senior scientist of Humane Society International and member of the International Whaling Commission’s Scientific Committee was recently in the area to talk about the welfare of wild vs. captive orcas. http://www.humanesociety.org/about/leadership/subject_experts/naomi_rose.html along with Dr. Ken Balcomb, who initiated the orca research project in 1976 and has been studying them since (list of publications can be found at the Center for Whale Research Link), and Dr. Visser of the Orca Research Trust http://www.orcaresearch.org/index.php/scientific-articles. These people are rather uniquely suited to study and make public comment on the issue of orca welfare in captivity. As a biologist myself, I understand your bias regarding the overriding importance of animal populations in terms of conservation, but does that mean people need ignore the issue of animal welfare when it comes to a species that is likely one of the most intelligent on the planet? it seems odd to me that you are so harshly critical of people concerned about the welfare of orcas in captivity, unless you have some connection to the industry or just not much interest in research on animal cognition and intelligence, or, perhaps, just don’t care about how animals are treated. There are thousands of people working on the behalf of dogs, cats, and other domestic animals, and I’m sure orca scientists sympathize with their plight, but their expertise is in killer whales, specifically. Surely there is a place for such experts, is there not? The way you mention Taiji and the slaughter of cetaceans there makes me wonder if you acknowledge that this is a serious abuse of animals that we know are self-aware and intelligent. But why should the people here be responsible for anything so-called *fabrications* asserted by another group? I don’t understand your insinuation that one shouldn’t care about the welfare of 50 captive orcas just because population dynamics are more important in terms of their conservation. Isn’t there room for both types of people? All the scientists I know, whether geologists or botanists or salmon biologists (such as myself), do seem concerned at the welfare of these magnificent animals, just as they are concerned about the welfare of other humans, or their pets. They are not drug-addled idiots. Let’s look back at how African-Americans, Native Americans, Asians, and women were once treated in the US–I believe we are better off now that we acknowledge that they are all deserving of equal treatment under the law. I don’t see how the concern over captive orcas is detrimental to other cetacean welfare organizations. Yes, straying from the facts would damage their reputation and could affect support for other efforts, but not everyone is an expert; some are just sincerely passionate and compassionate people. I believe there is a place for them in in our world and that they deserve a little more respect than name-calling. Maybe the conversation could be a little more elevated if we stick to specifics and facts.

  13. Allen Connel permalink
    August 3, 2012 5:03 am

    In all honesty, I don’t care one way or another about keeping orcas in captivity. Conservation should be about populations not individuals. I deal with populations of thousands. There are less than 50 orcas in captivity. I consider the millions of dollars spent fighting the theme parks to be an enormous waste of resources.
    Many extremists including David Kirby openly admit that the whale trainers care deeply for their animals. So the trainers love them, just not the way YOU would love them. I don’t believe this justifies the millions of dollars spent every year. Our department could do amazing things for dwindling species with just a portion of that money. Instead, extremist choose to waste it on 50 individuals.
    Look at the excessive amount of money spent on Keiko. If you really wanted to alleviate needless animal suffering, it could have been spent spaying and neutering thousands of cats and dogs.
    Yes, I’m aware that both sides have different opinions on the Keiko story. Doesn’t matter, our United States Fish & Wildlife, USDA and National Marine Fisheries have officially labeled the project a failure. It’s highly unlikely that a similar project will ever be approved again.

  14. Catherine permalink
    August 20, 2012 11:22 pm

    Poor Shouka. I went to her show most of the time when I visited the park and she never seemed particularly happy to me. I hope she will be happier at Sea World.

  15. Kim permalink
    August 27, 2012 9:08 am

    I took my daughters to six flags over this last weekend to go see shouka only to discover that she was moved to sea world San Diego on monday. From what I was told by the employees that I questioned is that they didn’t even know she was gone until they came back to work on Saturday.

    • Troy permalink
      September 3, 2012 4:55 am

      We found out Monday at noon that she had left earlier that morning. It’s too bad we couldn’t say goodbye. We were lucky enough to see her the week before.There’s a You Tube video of her leaving and her last performance at Six Flags. There’s also pics of her on the Sea World Facebook page. She looks so happy. She is also on the Shamu cam daily. Sea World is doing wonders with her and she has already bonded with two other whales.

      • Allen Connel permalink
        September 3, 2012 9:06 pm

        As an ex animal trainer for Sea World, It’s not at all surprising that her relocation was kept quiet. Even those with the best of intentions can make things difficult. I assume you work at the park? or have the opportunity to see her frequently?

      • Troy permalink
        September 4, 2012 2:32 pm

        Allen-
        I don’t work at the park. I’ve had the opportunity to spend time at the park frequently over the last several years with my boys and also spent time there (Marine World) as a child as well as an adult when Yaka and Vigga were there. I too wasn’t shocked they kept the move quite and her last performance (the Saturday before the move) was all the indicator anyone would have needed if they were there. The park information gguides had pulled Shouka’s info out weeks before.The trainers were back on the stage again interacting with her, which hadn’t happened since the “attack”. The announcer actually said ” and for one last time, here’s Shouka” while they played retro music from many years ago. The trainer actually gives Shouka a hug at the end so it was a very fitting goodbye, at least. I’m just very happy she’s in a batter place. I’ve appreciated your comments as it seems many people who are actually standing on the same side of the discussion often get off track.
        .

  16. Dylan permalink
    October 13, 2012 12:27 am

    I hope one day Shouka will be back in Marineland in France with her family…

  17. kierah permalink
    May 29, 2013 2:36 am

    Poor shouka….they should already know that killer whales will attack if not treated right.

  18. melanie permalink
    January 1, 2014 2:47 am

    good for her!! id do the same!! Seaworld of Aurora bought her from France, big mistake!!!! hell with france! they all need to be in the wild!

  19. melanie permalink
    January 1, 2014 2:54 am

    “Shouka is rumored to be rather moody & aggressive towards her trainers at times and no water work has been done publicly with Shouka since her move to the United States in 2002.” odd since i have pictures of her in seaworld of aurora with trainers and them in the water with her! and yes she is mentally punished now like Tilikum and all the rest!

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  1. Shouka Six Flags Killer Whale Attacks Trainer | Our Endangered Planet and it's Wildlife.
  2. Shouka Six Flags Killer Whale Attacks Trainer | Animal Connection

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