SeaWorld Orca Trainers to Get Back in Water

Monday, Mar 14, 2011  |  Updated 8:07 AM PDT
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SeaWorld is hoping to get its trainers back in the water with killer whales, one year after a colleague died in an attack.

Trainers at the company's three U.S. marine parks, including San Diego, will begin limited water work with whales within the next few months, SeaWorld spokesperson Becca Bides said in February.

But a company spokesperson said over the weekend that there is no timetable for getting trainers back in the water for public shows.

Chuck Tompkins is the curator of zoological operations for the SeaWorld parks in Orlando, San Diego and San Antonio. He says tens of millions of dollars are being spent on new safety features, including rising pool floors that can quickly lift whales and people out of the water.

Tompkins says officials have begun working with the whales to get them used to having humans in the water again.

Initially, the interactions will be restricted to small medical pools equipped with false-bottom floors that can be lifted out of the water.

Officials are moving carefully because a 6-ton orca named Tilikum suddenly dragged Orlando trainer Dawn Brancheau off a platform by the hair and drowned her last February.

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