The polar bear exhibit is also stocked with guns, Fischbeck said. If a bear were to escape, SeaWorld trainers were told to kill the bear rather than wait for a tranquilizer to take effect, she said.
"They're actually trained to kill their polar bears," she explained. "Once a month the trainers go to shotgun practice ... and in the trainers' room they'll post, like, who has the best target practice."
In many cases trainers were as ill-prepared to make decisions about their animals as corporate was, said Fischbeck, who noted that success at SeaWorld had very little to do with education, qualifications or other traditional metrics.
According to Fischbeck, success at SeaWorld was based more on how you looked and less on what you knew. "If you weren't attractive, you were not in the show or stadium," she said.
At one point, two male employees were plucked from the diving program to become dolphin trainers without any experience.
"They had no degree," she said. "Like one owned a parrot and that was his animal experience. The other one walked dogs. But they were both attractive; they were charismatic. They put them in a wetsuit and they were trainers."