Clipped From Independent
whale is all in trainer By, Bar bar a Bradley StatfWrUet. Â· - . . . Â· ' ' - ' . . Â· Â· . Â· ' ' . ;,;;Â· Picture Bob Shepard astride Shamu, Sea World's Â·.'famous! performer, as the killer whale swims and Â·dives before'an audience of several thousand specta- Â· .',,Â· Or, picture Shepard gingerly placing his head .insijIe.Shamu's awesome mouth. Â·Â· ;'..',':,Then picture this'stout, blond man as a Roman : Â·soldier going into battle as he rides a pair of-bottle-; : nose dolphins swimming side by side in a lagoon. :,..: ' It's' hot ^'exactly- your everyday, ordinary, safe .a.mj.secure job. None of these stunts is conducive to Â·'1oV"insurance premiums. ' - ..:-^ ; Â·' '' Vj-JJut Bbb'Shepard sees a- minimum of .risk if the ift^rine animals are properly trained and as.head ''trainer of'the killer whales'.at. Sea-World's three -complexes.in f San Diego,. Ohio and. Florida, proper 'trdining-hasffeen Shepard's responsibility. ,, Â· Â·;''.'' "It. car be Â·dangerous if you are not careful,." 'Shejiard explains about riding Shamu. "But'part of my job is to'eliminate the. frustrations that might Â·ijiake an animal dangerous."Â·'Â·' Â·'.' As for the: head-in-the-moutK. stunt, Bob Shepard iio : longer.does it N.ot because of a one-time mishap, Â·'but.because it's no longer part of the new shows and Behaviors Shamu h a s learned. Â· Â· Â· ' . Â· ' . ' Â· Â· - The .mishap occurred during a performance when a youngster, attempting to photograph tha feat, .sty off a flashbulb which caught the whale's eyes. Â·Startled, the whale dosed his mouth around Shepard : for an instant and then reopened it. ' ' A bit dazzed and a minor wound on his head, /Shepard cooly repeated the same stunt an-hour later '- with the same whale for another performance. ' ' But those are days gone by: BOB SHEPARD now is traveling the area as public affairs manager for the aquatic parks and Â· wdrking to dispel! some of the myths about marine animals, particularly in light of recent movies which depict sharks and whales as revenge-seeking man- eaters. Â· "One of the biggest myths is that a killer whale 'kills for pleasure," says Shepard. "People killed j-'thcm, say 10 or 15 years ago, because they interfered 1 with fishing operations and it was thought the oceans ' had to be rid of these terrible killers. Â· "While-they do have healthy appetites, whales ' kill only for food!" '"Â· ; Â· In controlled environment, all marine animals- receive carefully supervised diets.'The, three.whales that perform under the name of Shamu at the three Sea World parks, eat 100 to 200 pounds of fish a (Sea World in San Diego also houses three breeder Â· whales.).. ';,.Â·'Â·"Â· Â· ' Â· Â· Â· Â· . . . ' . - ' Â· ,.'Â·- Â· Â· ' Â· ' -On the open seas where food:-is; not always immediately available, it's often a feast or famine situation. A whale may have to swim.100 miles to Â·Â·'food. '.:Â·"Â·Â·:'Â·;Â·,Â·Â· ..,... : Â· Â· Â· , ' Â·Â· 'Â·" . BUT WHALES don't kill out of: revenge,'; says Shepard emphatically, as is implied in the movie "Orca." The-.storyline bf the movie surrounds, a whale which seeks revenge upon humans for the harpoon death of his whale wife-mate and unborn child. , ' ; ; - , Y : " . Â· Â· Â· ' ' Â· : :-. ' . t "There's'a lot of superstition and myth about these animals that we'd like:people to be aware of," says Shepard. "Like the movie ("Orca'.') which has an animal seeking revenge in a premeditated way involving ego and morality. ".These animals are not like that. They are creatures of nature and they don't have the social consciousness humans have." And, contrary to what the movie indicates, whales do not have "Wives" says Shepard. "Whales arc not monogamous. In fact, they are pretty promiscuous and are year-round polygamists." In addition, Shepard finds fault with the use of harpoons as the movie fishermen attempt to capture ' the .whale. Real-life whalers use a sophisticated sys- Â· tern .of nets and buoys sanctioned by federal marine animal.agencies, he points out. Â· Shepard also is disgruntled by the movie "Jaws for its treatment of sharks as revenge-seeking animals. . . "Sharks circle their prey as part of their innate feeding instincts. A shark sees a flash in the water and it reminds him of feeding time," says Shepard. "He has little ability to turn back once this feeding cycle has started." MUCH OF WHAT park scientists have learned about marine animals,.their behavior, feeding patterns and life expectancies, comes as a result of study of the animals they house.