A SeaWorld stranded whale was caught on video as it struggled for close to half an hour to get back into water, drawing outrage from animal lovers and criticism toward park officials who left the animal alone.
The video was shot by Carlo De Leonibus and his wife Ashley, who were visiting the park for their daughter Catiana’s 11th birthday. The were in the audience and watched as the short-finned pilot whale swam near the ledge of a pool and become stuck. Trainers had already left the stage because a lightning storm, leaving the SeaWorld stranded whale to struggle alone before frightened audience members.
“After about ten minutes, I realized it was in distress,” the man said. “I felt very concerned, so I went down and told one of the employees who just dismally responded and said ‘it’s having fun, it’s playing.’ He didn’t even bother to look at the whale, so I went back to the crowd. I began recording.”
But audience members understood the gravity of the situation, and many began yelling for trainers to help the stranded pilot whale.
“The crowd was really upset and panicking,” De Leonibus told The New York Daily News. “My daughter was screaming.”
A staff member came on the public address system, telling the crowd that the whale would be able to make its way back into the pool on its own. But after close to 15 more minutes of struggling, SeaWorld trainers finally helped the stranded whale back into the pool.
Park spokesman Nick Gollattscheck later reiterated the company’s position, telling WTSP that it is common for animals to play on the ledge, and that it takes younger ones longer to find their way back into the pool.
The video of the SeaWorld stranded whale posted on YouTube garnered a different reaction. It drew more than 130,000 views and many comments speaking out against the park and its treatment of the pilot whale.
Many of the allegations centered on the inherent inhumane treatment of whales living in captivity, but SeaWorld officials noted that the whale in question had actually been rescued and was not able to be released back into the wild.
“This whale was beached and stranded when it was saved by our animal rescue team last Labor Day weekend in South Florida,” SeaWorld officials said about the stranded whale. “After it was rescued and rehabilitated, it was deemed un-releasable by the federal government.”