Some killer whales appear predisposed to aggression. Tilikum, now at SeaWorld Orlando, has been implicated in the deaths of three people, two of them his trainers. Keto, a SeaWorld orca residing at Loro Parque in Spain, also killed his trainer in 2010. Splash, who died in 2005, suffered from ill-health for years and displayed aggressive tendencies. Kasatka, Kayla and many more whales have been involved in serious altercations.
But no incident has been more serious than the ones involving Orkid. Internal SeaWorld profiles of each captive animal were leaked online (you can view them at OrcaHome.de) and Orkid's behavioral patterns prove particularly disconcerting -- the park noting that the 25-year-old female whale has been involved in multiple aggressive incidents with trainers. When it comes to interaction with new trainers, the alleged SeaWorld documents advise, Orkid will "discriminate or test [them] out." Orkid has not progressed to killing a person – but she has been involved in 17 of 87 publicly recorded attacks on humans by SeaWorld whales, accounting for almost 20 percent of total attacks. What is making Orkid so aggressive? Is it her traumatic past, or because she is the offspring of two overly aggressive parents. Does this make her genetically predisposed or a product of the environment in which she lives? Perhaps it is a combination of all of these, along with personality and intelligence? "Given that both nature and nurture create an individual's characteristics, the reason Orkid is so aggressive is likely to be complex," said Lori Marino, a neuroscientist and expert in animal behavior and intelligence on the faculty of Emory University. Marino, founder and executive director of the Kimmela Center for Animal Advocacy, has spent decades studying self-awareness in cetaceans and evaluating the emotional-processing areas of their brains.