Nov. 17, 2006: killer whale transport. Not fun. I got to work at 7am, worked a whole shift, stayed to finish up transport prep, then an evening meeting to discuss transport, which was to begin at 11pm. At 11pm we were up at Shamu [Stadium]. I was assigned to be in a wet suit to assist in getting her into the stretcher. I wasn’t sure I wanted to do this. I was nervous. The whale was in the med pool, false bottom raised to beach her. She began to stress out. The trainers couldn’t get her to do what they wanted. She started thrashing and making loud vocals.
I was literally terrified. I was then told not to get in. More experienced people only. I was relieved. I was close enough to see her eyes, she was so upset and sounded like she was screaming. Animal Care staff had to leave the water several times because of the danger of being attacked. Finally they were able to get her into the stretcher and she was lifted into the box. She sat quietly for a few minutes and I was assigned to sit up on top of the box by her head and record respirations. I was within 2 feet of her head and I could see the defeated look in her eye. I felt awful. Then somehow a piece of foam that was supporting her dorsal floated towards her head. She panicked and began thrashing. She began thrusting her tail up and down and smashing the baffle above her tail. The box was shaking and water was going everywhere. I lost my balance, dropped my clipboard and moved my leg just as her giant head reared up, mouth open, towards me. I had moved just in time. I was really scared. When she calmed down I got off the box and was angry [about] what I was just a part of.
I was on night watch when Nootka had a stillborn. The supervisors determined that they had to take the baby immediately. I was told it was for Nootka’s health and safety. Nootka was in the back pool, which is long and rectangular. They dropped a net the width and depth of the pool, and I saw her push the baby over the top of the net after carrying it around for a while. As she pushed the baby around, they were trying to get it from her—not just one guy, a swarm.
I asked, “Please, can’t she just have a minute?” She was vocalizing and distressed. There was a shallows on the perimeter of the pool. Most of the guys were in the shallows, using nets and poles to get the calf close enough so they could grab it. I remember Nootka did get the calf back a few times, and in the end it was a very fast heave to get it out of the pool. Nootka was panicked. It was gut-wrenching to watch.
She about killed a couple of staff. She was mad. But they took the calf, and she did everything she could to get it back. There was no honor or care. There was nothing. They just pulled the calf and threw it in the back of a truck. And they put Nootka in the med pool [a small side pool with a floor that can be raised], and that’s where she stayed the entire night. I’ll never forget it. She cried and cried for her calf.