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Shocking SeaWorld Autopsy Report Shows Massive Injuries

Written by PETA | April 1, 2010

A judge has temporarily ruled that video footage and photographs of the violent killing of SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau by Tilly the killer whale will not be made public. The fight over that will rage on, I’m sure. But the autopsy report has been released today, and it makes it very clear that Dawn Brancheau’s last moments were filled with tremendous suffering. Despite massive public relations efforts on SeaWorld’s part to smooth over the “incident”—i.e., death by killer whale—by characterizing it as “play” that went a bit wrong, the autopsy shows that Tilly was not in the mood for affection.

The six-page report reveals that Brancheau’s left arm and part of her scalp were ripped off. She suffered spinal cord injuries, and her ribs as well as bones in her legs, arms, and face were broken. She had bruises and cuts all over her body. And she drowned.

As PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk states, “These were not love bites, but the vented fury of an angry and frustrated being who has been deprived of everything in life: family, friends, freedom—all for the sake of human profit and a few giggles.”

The gory details of Dawn Brancheau’s death are further evidence that animals who are deprived of everything that is natural and important to them throughout their entire miserable lives in sea parks, circuses, and zoos around the world will continue to attack and kill people whom they see as having a role in the denial of their freedom and family connections.

Whether by writing, tweeting, picketing, getting creative, or (ideally) doing all of the above and more, please help Tilly and the many other animals who are being held in captivity and deprived of everything that is natural to them. And the most important thing that anyone can do to help imprisoned animals is to refuse to patronize marine or other abusement parks.

Written by Karin Bennett

Commenting is closed.
  • Tracy says:

    I just watched Blackfish by chance and as I live I the UK I wasn’t as informed as I might have been. Now though I keep thinking about it! That poor girl, such a horrible fate and, in response to the ‘way to go Tilly’ comment, I believe Dawn adored the orcas and wanted to be with them, she trusted Tilly and felt there was a strong bond there. Perhaps it clouded the reality for her and made her feel too safe but please don’t be too hard on her, she did not deserve to die, God bless her memory and my love to her family. I hope that one day this barbaric practice of locking up these wonderful whales In watery prisons will stop. Taking away their young, treating them like toys, I am in total agreement that it is just so wrong. Power to anyone that can influence change, I hope it is you PETA x

  • jolly holly says:

    i wanna see whales but not whales in misery….and even a blind man could see their misery.

  • Brooklyn says:

    I used to love SeaWorld, but now I realize how cruel they are!

  • Haley Brown says:

    Tilikum deserves to be FREED!!!

  • Trisha says:

    After watching tonights show about this whale, I strongly believe that all these whales should be released into the ocean asap. I saw some alarming footage of what they do to these whales and it is inhumane. Our children can find other things to do than to watch Killer Whales in captivity turn on their trainers. Let them go..

    • ivonne says:

      Trisha, I feel the same way… I had my 6 year old, who wanted to go to SeaWorld so she could see the whales, watch “Blackfish” with me and I don’t regret it. Our children need to know that this is not okay.

  • OMG, my heart just broke when I seen Takara yanked away from her mother at 4 years old on the movie Blackfish…I have a 5 year old daughter n I can not imagine her getting yanked away from me… my God, I used to want to go to Sea World so bad n now, after seeing this documentary, I would never give my money to these people. AND… poor Tilikum, the things that poor whale had been through, it’s a miracle he hasn’t snapped at every human who’s come in contact with, if not fearing starvation, I think he would, I would.

  • christina says:

    These poor whales suffer all for a quick buck! When will courts and so on stop listening to excuses and have enough and we as the people help to put these discusting park owners out of businesses. Those owners eat well and live well as these whales and animals who do the work in bring guest in who pay and those animals at the end of the day get the crap end of the stick. It is discusting!

  • sheildmaiden says:

    Does anyone remember”Free Willy”.?It sounds familiar but the outcome isn’t the same. When I was in scbool my guidance counselor had on her door a big blown up picture of herself riding the dolphins.Iasked if she had ever seen “The Cove”?She said no,,I told her I highly recommended it. I saw her a week later and said that I must think her a cruel person ,I said no,I think you’re a highly misinformed person.Needless to say, the poster has been taken down6

  • viacarrozza says:

    I went to SeaWorld Orlando this summer. I tried to ask some innocent questions about the happiness of the animals and if the animals ‘liked’ performing. They got very defensive. I got ‘up close and personal’ with a dolphin at Discovery Cove and what I saw was a wild animal who was not happy! My daughter wants to work with marine life so we asked a lot of questions about training, marine biology and what kind of schooling she would need to do this. Everyone we asked was trained in public relations and human psychology….nothing to do with animals. After seeing this site, my daughter is now more interested in putting our beloved marine animals back into the wild rather than keeping them out.

  • annie says:

    I saw blackfish and from what I learned from that documentary and all the things I have read no its not rightwhat Tilikum did can u blame him idk.. they took that poor animal from his herd when he was 2 and kept him locked up in small dark places with other large whales they had no room to move starved him and let other whales torment him..these animals need to be let go and not kept in captivity he had done his tricks and wanted his reward he was frustrated and whales arvery intelligent animals and are very emotional animals it all just got to him I’d probably snap too..but they need to be set free and it will never happen bc seaworld has their paws and money in every court they go in and will continue to cover up and say its all play

  • Jordan says:

    He wasn’t playing. He was tired of being held in a concrete pool that is like a bathtub to him compared to the fathoms he could travel in the oceans and forced to do unnatural tricks. The autopsy shows these were not “love bites”. These were injuries from a frustrated whale. And please, call them Orcas.

  • dee says:

    i thank after they are healthy enought they shoould release them back in the wild its nice to see them in the wild im from fl… and love going to the islands there and watching the wildlife play wildlife is a big word there its just like winter and then there are some like winter who will need our help to live……they need to release the ones that can be and then keep the other…the trainer knew what she was doing…

  • Animal Lover says:

    We must remember two things; 1) this is a wild animal, and 2) this particular animal is a “killer” whale. If you have seen any video of killer whales attacking and consuming penguins or seals, it is not a pretty sight. We seem to forget that the wild predators that we live with today, cats and dogs, have been trained and tamed over hundreds of years. Even then, we still have 100’s of attacks by dogs on humans every year. I think in the case of this particular killer whale, he should be allowed to rejoin his kind in nature. If he survives, great, if not, then so be it. With all of the amazing video footage we have of animals in their natural habitat, perhaps it is time to give up on collecting these animals in zoos and themeparks. If watching them on TV isn’t enough for you, take one of the many wild animal excursions that are available to you.

  • Taylor says:

    the whale wasnt trying to kill him he just wanted to play ;0 and he didnt Know that we cant hold our breath as long as him but i am still sorry 🙁

  • Caddie says:

    Tilly 🙁 my heart goes out to you angel 🙁

  • Angela says:

    Wow for people that are supposed to be compassionate for animals why would be be so uncompassionate to humans with hurtful comments towards the deceased trainer? That trainer was a human being with family friends and obviously loved animals even though it is not in a way that you personally approved obviously you need to try and EDUCATE with out the HATE! Nasty words will not change anyones point of view esp when they they also love animals too

  • Karen says:

    I dont feel bad for the trainer at alldont get me wrong its a horrible thing but this is not the first attack on trainers at sea world with this whale or another one so they should know by now that they arent safe in the water or really anywhere near them. They are being paid to risk their lives with these animals honestly what do they expect ?

  • Sane Human Being says:

    WHY is anybody cheering????? I understand Yes this was trgic. Yes an orca who was already disturbed by captivity and already possible subject in ANOTHER incident should be free. Yes I think there are limits on keeping captive animals read NO orcas or whale sharks!!! and expecting success. But boycotting every single aquatic act? Come on people! Does Shedd force orcas into bathtubsize tanks? Are sea lions who walk on a stage and ring a bell brutally oppressed? I didn’t think so! I support the ideal but beyond an ideal you have to figure out that these cases are most often exceptions to the rule.

  • Shannon Maloney says:

    If animals at zoo’s and circuses dont want to stand on their heads wear stupid clothing do tricks for peoples enjoyment dont make them! Using force wont make the animals want to do it over and over again it will just cause them pain. And these KILLER WHALES are meant to be in the wild! Not in captivity. No Animal Belongs In A Cage.

  • henry de graaf says:

    Captive animals don’t behave the same as wild ones. Let animals be free except fro a few that actually thrive in zoos. Have you ever seen a bear pace up and down all day? Of course they will get neurotic and then dangerous.

  • suzie rice says:

    I wish there were a way the whole world could get together and shut the parks that house these poor animals ! That is why Dawn died through sheer frustration on the part of the whale .Why don’t they listen to the animals ? There didnt even seem much in the way of safety precautions to save any trainer that got in trouble !!!! Shame on Sea World CLOSE IT DOWN AND ALL THE OTHER PARKS !!!!!!

  • Anne Compagnon says:

    May God protect all animals confined to small areas when they are so much bigger and should have room for play. Is terrible the death of the “trainer”….my prayers go to the family. Surely the trainer loved the animal. How is the World going to slow down with their many Cell Telephones all over the place…even the very poor has a cell telephone…it used to be for those that can accommodate financially such a cute little “messenger”. What can we do? Pray for the animals of this World being used for entertainment….go on line and log on to Albert Schweitzer Animal Prayer. Happy Easter to all the World and many blessings for the animals abuse and or in captivity without adequate room to be themselves…which is their right in the Animal World. Anne

  • diane corbett says:

    The comment Way to go Tilly is so disrespectful to Dawn. Please show some compassion. I agree Tilly should never have been used for humans to degrade her level of life and make money off him. He should be in the ocean but now he can never go back because if he was put back he would die. We can not train giants and one thing for sure it proves no one could get to Dawn to save her. I read they literally had to force open his jaws to let her go. I only hope she died before too much suffering. No one should have to die this way. I have been to sea world on numerous occassions and have watched the shows but nothing fulfilled me other than wishing the animals were back where they belonged. Sad to note but as long as they can make millions off these animals it will be awhile before something is done to save them. Peta do your thing and get this done. My heart and prayers go out to Dawn and her family. Diane

  • Toby Saunders says:

    Betty White recently claimed that we need animals on display in captivity because it’s ‘how we learn’ to that I say ethics comes first and that furthermore I don’t feel she’s very talented no vengeance implied.

  • kevin says:

    A few of you mentioned movies that amde you feel sorry for the dolphins and whales. do you really think they are in the wild? they may really be set free in the end but its not like hollywood follows them around the ocean with a camera. they in a holding tank out in hollywood waiting for next film to be made.and you idiots pay good money to see it.

  • Kathy says:

    What happened to the trainer was a horrible thing however what is more horrible is that it DIDN’T have to happen at all! Whales and all other animals should never be held captive and because of that Dawn’s life was lost. In no way should we be saying “way to go Tilly” because this is nothing to celebrate or to cheer for. It’s sad and tragic for both Dawn and Tilly. Please this needs to stop. There are other forms of entertainment in this world besides watching a dolphinkiller whale show at a theme park. God help us all.

  • Margy Craig says:

    For many years now I have believed that no animals should be held captive for any reason. The only time humans should intervene with animals is to help them if they are injured or in danger usually caused by humans. We will see more tragedies such as this while animalsno matter how big or small we use them for our entertaimnemt. Enjoy them in nature not in prisons.

  • Jen says:

    My parents live in Florida right putside of Seaworld. Theeir vet knew Dawn and he said that for monthsyears the animal was frustrated and slammiing up against the walls near a restaurant that was overlooking the aquarium. This poor mammal my heart just bleeds. I have convinced my parents to stop going tp Sea World!

  • chevychase says:

    Melissa…I read a few posts who did not agree with your remark “way to go Tilly”. Well I do agree with you. If you torture animals for human entertainment then you know the risk. The so called “Trainers” know the risk damn well. If you harrass annoy exploit and torture wild animals you will have to pay a price. If you don’t realize that you are simply naive or plain stupid. History repeats itself. I know for sure that if I were to be imprissoned for some idiots’ “entertainment” I would get back to them one way or another…..and with all force. Playing the innocent here is no use. Abuse is abuse. And this abuse is of the worst kind…..

  • Comora Tolliver says:

    I agree that these incredible animals should not be kept for our entertainment or education.. I am curious as to what would happen if these whales were released back into the wild… Would they survive now? I have heard the arguments that they would not is there arguments that they would? I wish these animals could be free…

  • Johanna A. says:

    I don’t agree w the way to go Tilly reamrk made. This family is suffering from this horrible tragedy. But ocean animals should be kept in the ocean as should all wild animals be kept in their natural habitat.

  • valeria lombardi says:

    Gentlmen I’ve been schocked to read what happen to this beautiful sea animal!!!!! You made a wrong wayyou couldn0t at least let him be free once again Sincerly Valeria Lombardi

  • L says:

    I think we need to grieve the lives lost. The trainer and Tilly’s loss of freedom. I am deeply sorry for the trainers family and friends. The very sad part of all of this is that I’m sure the trainer did mean something to this poor whale while in captivity. Just imagen everyday in a small pool with no similarity of a normal whale life. I also imagen that the trainer loved the whale. How truly tragic this story is and how much Sea World is to blame for both losses and all for a corporate profit.

  • Kim says:

    Boycott all animal acts!!!

  • Deb says:

    This was a horrible thing to happen but it wasn’t Tilly’s fault. These animals NEED to be in their own habitat NOT enclosed in a small space unable to swim the ocean etc. I’m sorry for Dawn and her family but these trainers KNOW they’re putting their life in danger. It was her choice just a freak accident. But I do believe it’s wrong to have whales dolphins or any animal taken from its original habitat. Let them free!

  • Marta Zilberts says:

    Tilly short for Tillicum is actually a male whale. The horrible death his trainer suffered was only a matter of time and will only be a matter of time until another imprisoned intelligent being has had enough of their socalled existance. Any other trainer who has made a living for themselves by teaching these magnificant creatures to do tricks for dead fish should expect the same fate for themselves. They are part of the problem not part of any solution. With all the cruelty any animal is subjected to I have no shame in admitting my heart is cold towards any human suffering at the hands of an animal. I was on King Kong’s side as well as Godzilla !

  • Tania says:

    Thank you everybody for nice words and support of Tilikum. Tilikum a wonderful male orca and the Sea World on top of the crime of keeping him there deprived of his Life of Dignity and Freedom is guilty of another horrible crime of using Tilikum for breeding orcas in captivity. They cover their criminal actions by hypocritical “Educational” purposes. What kind of “Education” is this???

  • sheila depolo says:

    I do not agree with the “Way to go Tilly” remark….however this should be and needs to be a wake up call to Seaworld and every other facility that keeps animals in captivity. My heart goes out to trainer that was killed but my heart also goes out to Tilly as well. She has been living her life caged up so that people can pay money to see her do tricks …… is a very sick world we live in. Seaworld needs to be shut down as well as every other facility that holds “wild” animals captive.

  • Gina says:

    When I was a kid and would go to Sea World with family on vacations or holidays I could never understand why I would get so emotional at the dolphin and killer whale shows. I would literally have to try not to get teary and choked up. I could never understand why I was so affected. Maybe some part of me did know. Today I know exactly why I feel so much pain for these beautiful animals. Nothing is crueler than harnessing a wild and intelligent animal. Those who own these whales like Tillikum are not individuals but corporations and you know that psychiatrists have said that if a corporation were a human being it would have no soul and a psychopathic personality. Anyone with heart and half a brain could not go on pretending that this is okay after Dawn’s death. I wish I could watch more of Tillikum but I can’t even stand watching You Tube clips of any whale in captivity. When he is released in the wild I will look forward to seeing video of him then. I just want to say Good Work PETA I will do all the things listed to help. I also want to say that Tillikum caused me to take notice later I watched the Cove which caused me to care and because of this I found out about little Luna he made me fall in love with dolphins and killer whales. We need to free all the Tilly’s and try to convince Sea World to invest in reuniting their captive animals to their pods and homes. We need to make sure that the slaughtering of all animals in the name of entertainment and family reaction ENDS. We need to leave the whales alone once they go back to their natural surroundings and concentrate on our kind and make sure that they are not polluting depleting or overusing their migration and hunting area for shipping. The world needs to slow down and we could if those making all the money were made to conserve time money and energy for our ocean’s fish and mammals. It’s their home not ours. We need to watch our own consumption too and waste so that all those big ships don’t have to keep coming with more waste for us to make. If you ever listened to hydrophones at San Juan Islands you would know why I say that. It’s horrible sounding to me at my computer I can only imagine how bad it affects the killer whales that love to spend their summers there.

  • Allie says:

    I feel horrible for Tilly having to endure her life of isolation it’s a tradgedy I also deeply feel for the trainers family and friends. Anyone who loses a family member or friend is suffering as well. Allie

  • Christine Guerriero says:

    I don’t think it’s appropriate to say “Way to go Tilly” Yes. it is true that being made to live that horrible unnatural life was hell for Tilly. I am trying to feel for the trainer who was horrifically killed. She herself was a victim. Sea World trains THE trainers to believe the animals love them and have bonded. Sea World should let all their captive whales and dolphins free.

  • Jacob says:

    Perhaps you should put a notice at the top of the page that this is not an April Fool’s joke.

  • Melissa Schmidt says:

    I chalk one up for Tilly! Way to go Girl! I believe that all critters great and small should live on our planet but not in cages zoos or exhibits. How depressing life is. Can you imagine life behind wire or bars? Pretty fraked up eh?