SeaWorld Challenges Ban on Orca Contact

Touching between trainers, whales banned following death in 2010


A federal ban on contact between killer whales and their trainers, imposed after a bull orca drowned a SeaWorld trainer, faces a challenge in federal court Tuesday as the marine park fights to keep its signature attraction.

SeaWorld, famous for its "Shamu" killer whale shows, says the Labor Department judge went too far when he prohibited "close contact" between the killer whales and their keepers after the Feb. 24, 2010, death of veteran SeaWorld Orlando trainer Dawn Brancheau.

Brancheau died after Tilikum yanked her from a platform into a pool during the "Dine with Shamu" show and thrashed her until she drowned. The whale held Brancheau in his mouth for nearly 45 minutes before other trainers could extricate her body.