A trip to SeaWorld took a disturbing turn for one Florida family as they watched a beached pilot whale struggle to get back into the water for about 25 minutes before trainers finally went to push it back in.
Carlo and Ashley De Leonibus took their daughter Catiana to SeaWorld Orlando to celebrate her 11th birthday last week, The New York Post reported. A lightning storm during an aquatic show forced the trainers and cast to leave the stage. That’s when the audience saw the small pilot whale, a member of the dolphin family, floundering on a ledge at the edge of the pool.
When no trainers appeared to help the struggling animal after about 10 minutes, Carlo De Leonibus pulled out his cell phone and started filming.
“I went and told a SeaWorld employee in a dark blue shirt who said it was normal and that it was fine, playing etc.,” De Leonibus wrote in a description of the video he posted on YouTube. “I went back to the bleachers and began recording. What I saw, changed my view of SeaWorld forerver. The crowd becomes furious, yelling to save the dolphin. After an additional 10-15 minutes after my recording they sent two dolphin trainers in to push the dolphin back in.”
De Leonibus’ video of the flapping pilot whale, in which another whale even appears to try to help it, has been viewed more than 48,000 times since it was posted July 20.
Content warning — some strong language at the beginning of the video:
A SeaWorld spokesman told WTSP-TV that the “safety and health of the animals in our care are among our highest priorities” and that the whale was never in danger.
“The pilot whales come out on the ledge all the time and always get back into the deeper water without any problem,” spokesman Nick Gollattscheck said. “The animals seem to enjoy it and it has no effect on their health or well being. The younger and more inexperienced animals – like the one on the video – sometimes take a little longer, because they haven’t completely mastered the technique yet. The whale was never in danger.”
De Leonibus said the incident was particularly distressing for his daughter.
“She was heartbroken. She was crying at night. She was really upset. She felt that SeaWorld was going to take care of their animals,” he told WTSP.