SeaWorld San Antonio still deciding on Shamu show

February 25, 2010 11:59:14 AM PST
The SeaWorld in San Antonio will reopen Saturday, but no decision has been made yet on whether the killer whale shows will go on as scheduled after a trainer's death at the SeaWorld in Orlando, a park official said Thursday. Chris Bellows, vice president of zoological operations, said park operators were re-evaluating the procedures used for the Shamu shows and were meeting with trainers to determine whether to conduct the killer whale shows when the park opens for the season this weekend. A decision will be made soon, he said.

Park officials in Orlando and San Diego discontinued Shamu shows in the immediate aftermath of trainer Dawn Brancheu's death in Florida. After a noontime show on Wednesday, a whale named Tilikum grabbed her by the ponytail and dragged her into the water. She drowned -- the first such death in SeaWorld's 46-year history.

"This is just a tragic loss and we're deeply saddened by what happened in Orlando. Our trainers, we're all family," said Bellows, noting that trainers from the three facilities talk often and travel between the parks. "We are very closely knit as animal trainers at the three SeaWorld parks."

SeaWorld San Antonio has six orcas, including a calf born last month. Eighteen trainers work in Shamu Stadium here.

The park's other marquee shows, including the sea lion, otter and walrus show and a new show with beluga whales and dolphins, will go as scheduled Saturday, he said.

San Antonio's SeaWorld is not a year-round park. In the spring and fall, it is open primarily on weekends and has daily hours only for spring break and the summer months.

In one notable orca run-in in 2004, a whale wouldn't let a San Antonio trainer out of the pool and tried to bite him. Bellows said the trainer calmed the whale down and got out of the pool unharmed.