Shamu was the first orca to survive more than 13 months in captivity and was the star of a very popular killer whale show at SeaWorld San Diego in the mid–late 1960s. She was the fourth killer whale (orca) ever captured (the second female). She was captured in October 1965 and died in August 1971 after about six years in captivity. After her death, the name Shamu continued to be used in SeaWorld "Shamu" orca shows for different killer whales in different SeaWorld parks.
Shamu's was the first intentional live capture of a healthy orca. The three previous orca captures ("Wanda," Moby Doll and Namu) had been more opportunistic. The very young, 14 foot (4.25m), 2000 lb (900 kg) Southern Resident orca was captured by Ted Griffin in Puget Sound in October 1965 to be a companion for the orca Namu at Griffin's Seattle public aquarium. But the new orca was soon leased to and then purchased by SeaWorld in San Diego in December 1965. Her name is presumably a portmanteau of "she" and "Namu."
She was retired from performing after an incident on April 19, 1971 in which she bit on the legs and hips of a female SeaWorld employee who was trying to ride her as part of a filmed publicity event, and refused to release the woman until other workers came to the rescue and pried the orca's jaws apart with a pole. The employee had been asked to ride Shamu while wearing a bikini, and had not known that the orca had previously attacked people who wore ordinary bathing suits and was only conditioned to perform with trainers that wore wetsuits. The orca had also been showing recent signs of erratic behavior and of being upset just before the incident.
About four months later, Shamu died (in August 1971).
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- "Killer Whale Bites Girl In Marine Act Rehearsal". Toledo Blade. Associated Press. April 20, 1971. Retrieved September 22, 2014.