This article refers to the SeaWorld killer whale shows. For the killer whale (orca) named Shamu, see Shamu
Shamu show, San Diego SeaWorld, 2009
Shamu is the name used for several SeaWorld orca (killer whale) shows and is the stage name given to the "star" of those shows, beginning with the original Shamu in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The orca Shamu died in 1971, but the name Shamu was trademarked by SeaWorld (as well as the names "Namu" and "Ramu") and has been given to different orcas at different times when performing in Shamu shows.
The first "Baby Shamu" was named Kalina. She was the first surviving orca born in captivity on September 26, 1985. Ten orca calves had been born in captivity before 1985, but five were stillborn and the others all died within two months of their births. Kalina's parents, Katina and Winston, were bestowed the names Kandu VI (Katina) and Ramu (Winston). The stage name "Grandbaby Shamu" was given to Kalina's first calf, which was born on February 2, 1993 – a male named Keet. The first "Great Grandbaby Shamu" was Keet's first calf, born on December 21, 2004 – a female named Kalia. Kalia gave birth to the first "Great Great Grandbaby Shamu" on December 2, 2014. The father is Ulises.
On February 23, 1984, a 7-year-old female orca by the name of Kandu V grabbed a SeaWorld San Diego trainer, Joanne Hay, and pinned her against a tank wall during a performance.
On March 4, 1987, 20-year-old SeaWorld San Diego trainer, Jonathan Smith, was grabbed by one of the park’s 6-ton killer whales. The orca dragged the trainer to the bottom of the tank, then carried him bleeding all the way back to the surface and then spat him out. Smith gallantly waved to the crowd when a second orca slammed into him. He continued to pretend he was unhurt as the whales repeatedly dragged him to the bottom of the stadium pool. Smith was cut all around his torso, had a ruptured kidney and a six-inch laceration of his liver, yet he managed to escape the pool with his life. Later reports indicate that the whales involved in the attack had been 10-year-old female Kenau and 9-year-old female Kandu V.
In November, 1987, Orky (II) was involved in an accident that injured trainer John Sillick during a show for the public. Sillick was riding on the back of a female orca when Orky breached. Sillick's back, leg, and pelvis were broken when Orky landed on top of him. A lawsuit ensued. According to Sillick's lawyer, after several operations Sillick can again walk but his activity is limited. Orky may have been responding to another trainer's (perceived) signal to breach. Court documents are sealed but the judge's remarks, which were not sealed, revealed that Orky may have had "visual limitations" that had not been disclosed to the trainer.
On June 12, 1999, 22-year-old Kasatka grabbed her trainer Ken Peters by the leg and attempted to throw him from the pool during a public show at SeaWorld San Diego.
In late July 2004, during a show at the SeaWorld park in San Antonio, Texas, a male orca named Kyuquot (nickname Ky) repeatedly jumped on top of his trainer, Steve Aibel, forcing him underwater and barred the trainer from escaping the water. After several minutes the trainer was able to calm the animal and he exited the pool unhurt. “Veterinarians believe the whale… felt threatened by the trainer, perhaps a result of the effects of adolescent hormones.”
On April 4, 2005, SeaWorld Orlando trainer Sam Davis was repeatedly “bumped” by an 11-year-old male orca named Taku. The show continued uninterrupted but the trainer was later taken to Sand Lake Hospital for unspecified minor injuries and released the same day. Additional eyewitness account: "The trainer and Taku were about to slide on the slide out at the end of the show when Taku completely stopped and started "bumping" the trainer. The trainer was male and he finally swam out of the tank. I knew something was wrong because none of the whales except Kalina wanted to perform. Then they finally got Taku out to splash people at the end of the show, when this incident took place."
On November 15, 2006, a SeaWorld San Diego trainer was injured when the park's 18-year-old female killer whale, Orkid, grabbed veteran trainer Brian Rokeach by the foot and pulled him to the bottom of the tank, refusing to release him for an extended period of time. Orkid released Rokeach only after heeding fellow trainer Kenneth Peters's repeated attempts to call the animal’s attention back to the stage. Rokeach suffered a torn ligament in his ankle but was not taken to the hospital. In response to the incident, SeaWorld increased the number of trainers who must be available during performances and in water training to five staff members but this however was ineffective because no more than two weeks later trainer Kenneth Peters was involved in a similar incident with different orca.
On November 29, 2006, Kasatka, one of SeaWorld San Diego's then seven orcas, grabbed her trainer, Ken Peters, by the foot and dragged him to the bottom of the tank not once but twice during an evening show at Shamu Stadium. The senior trainer escaped only after staff members managed to separate the two with safety nets. This was the second documented incident of Kasatka attacking Peters and is the third most widely reported of all the SeaWorld incidents.
On February 24, 2010, toward the end of a "Dine with Shamu" show, the orca "Tilikum" killed an experienced female trainer. Dawn Brancheau, a 40-year-old with extensive training experience, drowned as at least two dozen tourists looked on from above a whale tank and from an underwater viewing area. Brancheau was finishing up a session with Tilikum, the largest orca in SeaWorld's collection and its only mature male, following the Dine with Shamu show. Following this event, trainers no longer go into the water with the orcas at SeaWorld parks shows.