Tongue Tried

by

Brent CannonEverybody is talking about the trainer at Sea World who was attacked by one of the Killer whales in the Shamu show. I have had up close experience with the whales at Sea World. A few years ago I did a series of reports from Sea World. The staff took me behind the scenes so that I could understand what the crew goes through in taking care of the many sea creatures there – where they come from – how they train etc. One day they took me to see Shamu in the massive tank behind the one where fans come to see the shows. They asked if I wanted to pet Shamu’s tongue. It turns out these powerful creatures like their tongue scratched much like a cat likes to be scratched behind their ears. I hesitantly agreed. The trainer called Shamu – whom I could not see in the tank. But soon I saw a big wave rolling from the other side of the tank – and coming right at me. It was Shamu under water – the sheer speed and power creating a mini tsunami. At the edge of the tank where I was waiting is a ramp into the water – and Shamu slid right up on it – out of the water next to me. It was thrilling – awe inspiring – and frightening all at the same time. This massive body comes sailing out of the water with ease, like a friendly puppy dog wanting to play. Shamu’s mouth opens like a small cave with rows of sharp teeth above and below. The trainer tells me to stick my arm in there and scratch the tongue. Are you kidding! Shamu could snap my arm off with one quick chomp. Or snatch me off the ramp and drag me underwater. But for some reason I did as I was instructed and scratched away. Shamu seemed content enough and seemed to enjoy it – although it’s not like they purr or anything. I got my arm back and called it a day. I got to do something many people will never experience – and I still have both my arms. But it made me realize what an amazing thing occurs each time these trainers and whales do a show – working hand in fin (?) as a team. Something went wrong the other day at Sea World. But the trainer was not seriously hurt. We have to remember that these whales are still wild animals and anything can happen. Considering the possibilities – everybody was very lucky.

Brent Cannon
NBC11 Anchor

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