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Author David Kirby champions the anti-captivity movement in Death at SeaWorld

Poolside reading: Kirby's book comes out Tue/17.

In addition, "I was so lucky to have ex-trainers who came forward after Dawn died. [They had] come to the same conclusion through different channels [than Rose]: captivity is bad for the whales. I felt super-fortunate to have first-person accounts of whales in nature and whales in captivity," Kirby says. "I really wanted to bring readers to two different worlds that most people have never been to: the far Northern reaches of Vancouver Island, where these whales live — and then, backstage in Orlando. I felt that juxtaposing them would really show why captivity is inappropriate. I wanted the readers to get to know the whales in the wild, and to appreciate their life in the wild, in order to understand why captivity for this particular species is so wrong."

Though Brancheau's death was the impetus for Death at SeaWorld, it is not the book's sole focus. The "death" referred to in the title has multiple meanings.

"Two people [Brancheau, plus an after-hours trespasser in 1999] have died in SeaWorld pools," Kirby says. "Two other people have died because of SeaWorld whales: in British Columbia before Tilikum was bought by SeaWorld, and in the Canary Islands by a whale owned by SeaWorld."

But while human deaths grab headlines, whale deaths are far more common. According to Rose and other experts, orcas live far fewer years in captivity than they would in the wild.

"Death at SeaWorld also absolutely refers to all of the orcas who have died at SeaWorld, and continue to die at SeaWorld," Kirby says. "To me, the whales are as important as any of the people in the book — Tilikum becomes a main character that you get to know. I used to tell people when I was writing the book, it's like Jaws, only it's non-fiction, more people die, and you actually care about the whale."


July 25, 7pm, free

The Hub

901 Mission, Ste 105, SF

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