Octover 24, 1969 The Daily Herald Chicago, Illinois Pg. 27
Don't Wait Until the Whale Bites by DUSTON HARVEY REDWOOD CITY, Calif. (UPI)-When an 8,600 pound killer whale throws a tantrum, trainer William (Sonny) Allen doesn't use his usual "loving care" to calm her. He just gets out of the way. "I've never stayed in the water long enough to find out if she'd bite me," Allen said in an interview at the Marine World recreational complex 23 miles south of San Francisco. The wiry young director of training described his teaching methods and "personal relationship" with Kianu, a 21% foot killer whale he has been tutoring. The whale has learned such tricks as "talking" by squeaking through her blowhole, kissing her trainer on the cheek, jumping several feet out of the water at a pole, and giving her handler a ride. Kianu's outbursts of temper usually come during the ride, Allen said. She doesn't mind him standing on her rubber- like black back, but she gets mad when he sits down and tries to make her buck like a horse. The whale has dumped Allen into the water, then turned on him with toothy mouth open. It's then Allen resorts to the form that made him a champion swimmer during his youth in Philadelphia. Allen's quick exit is the technique recommended by the U.S. Navy in dealings with these "killers of the sea," which hunt in packs of three to 40 and prey mainly on other warm-blooded sea life. They are considered the fiercest and most voracious sea mammal. Allen has never been bitten by Kianu, but she once pinned his leg against the side of her training pool. An assistant freed him by pushing the whale away with a pole. "She did it deliberately," Allen said. "She got mad when we kept doing the same trick over and over. She waited until I turned my head for a second and pinned my leg." But most of the time Allen and his weighty pupil get along fine. "I treat all animals-- dolphins, seals and whales--like five to eight year old children. Then: intelligence is superior to that, but their emotions and ability to learn tricks fall in that age group." Allen, 27, who moved to Marine World after 6% years of animal work at Philadelphia's Aquarama, began tutoring Kianu when two other trainers failed. The whale was caught last year in Garden Bay off British Columbia by fishermen who sold her to Marine World for $30,000. She 1 was first christened Clyde, a name which was changed after the stillbirth of a calf. The first six weeks of her training consisted of acclimating Kianu to the touch of humans. "They have to sense the difference between my hand and a fish--for obvious reasons," Allen said. "I have a way with animals. They like to be petted and talked to. I have a personal relationship with them based on loving care." People Power at 'Frisco Bay by DUSTON HARVEY this fall--setting the stage for the struggle The commission also was given control A l l e n took Kianu's natural movements--pulling, pushing, biting, jum- ' ping--and taught her to use them on Despite the trainer's personal approach, Kianu performs for only one reason. "Her reward is always food," Allen said. "She can distinguish between trainers, but she associates us all with food." Allen, who feeds Kianu about 150 pounds of mackerel a day, uses a whistle as a "bridging cue" between trick and reward, signaling the whale she has performed correctly and will get her fish. The training begins with Allen waiting and watching. When Kianu does the natural act he wants, he blows the whistle rewards her. By repetition, she learns to associate her act and the fish, and starts to do it on cue. When one routine is mastered, Allen goes to the next. The tricks are learned sequence and eventually the whale knows her routine as well as the trainer. That leaves a final problem. "They're just like kids," Allen said. "She tries to get away with things . . starts getting sloppy. If you reward her, she'll start doing it her way every time. , "The only way I can discipline a whale is to ignore her. When she doesn't get the fish, she knows she's done something wrong. Then I keep doing it until gets it right." Which is how Kianu's temper tantrums get started.