A Lift


John Hargrove, author of “Beneath The Surface” is an ex SeaWorld trainer that also starred in the 2013 documentary “Blackfish”. During his career at the marine park he has worked with many orcas. He quit his job in 2012 and since then has been stepping up as an advocate for the animals he used to train. One of his favorite killer whales to work with is a female known as “Kasatka”. Kasatka was captured off the coast of Iceland on October 26, 1978 at just one year of age. After spending time in several parks she ended up at SeaWorld of San Diego. Kasatka has given birth to 4 calves.


Her first calf “Takara” was born on July 9, 1991 to Kasatka and Kotar. Kotar was captured together with Kasatka in Iceland and spend his life in captivity until he died on April 1st 1995 after a metal gate he was playing with came down on his head causing skull fractures. Takara was separated from her mother on April 24, 2004 when she got moved to SeaWorld in Orlando. The first born child of Kasatka has given birth to several calves herself making Kasatka grandmother and even great grandmother when one of her own calves gave birth.


Kasatka’s second calf is a male called “Nakai”. Born on September 1st 2001 Nakai is one of Tilikum’s children. He got hurt in 2012 damaging his chin which left a big wound. The third calf born to Kasatka and Keet is a female called “Kalia”. She was born in SeaWorld in San Diego on December 21, 2004. Like her sister Takara she has also given birth to a daughter named “Amaya” on December 2, 2014.


Last born to Kasatka is “Makani”. The young bull was born on valentine’s day 2013 (February 14). His father is Kshamenk a killer whale that is held in captivity in Mundo Marino, Argentina. SeaWorld acquired his sperm in 2011 to use for artificially insemination on Kasatka. Kshamenk was captured in 1992 and has been without the company of another orca since 2000. He now has company of dolphins during the shows but spends a lot of time swimming circles in a extremely small pool. During the birth of Makani her other daughter Kalia stayed with Kasatka.


Kasatka is a dominant killer whale that will, at times, attack other orcas at the park and sometimes even trainers. In 1993 and 1999 she has tried to attack trainers and in 2006 she grabbed Ken Peters, another trainer by his leg and dragged him under for a long period of time twice. Video of the incident shows that Kasatka is trying to drown her trainer but in the end she let’s go of him and Peters escapes to the side of the pool before the orca can grab him ones again.


The daughter of Kasatka, Takara, is another of John Hargrove’s favorite orcas. Less dominant then her mother she is a favorite for SeaWorld in their shows. It was during one of these shows that John learned how caring and friendly killer whales can be. Together with another trainer he was doing water works (performing with the animals in the pool) when during a procedure where he was standing with one foot on Takara’s rostrum, he slipped off while Takara was pushing him up in the air. Being unable to avoid collision, Takara slammed her rostrum into the side of John, breaking his ribs.


Now being hurt badly John found himself in the water with a big killer whale that could have been stressed out or even annoyed by the accident. Takara swam through the water towards him and seemed to understand he was in pain.
Could the female orca have used echolocation to see the injuries inside John’s body?
Takara came closer but instead of doing any damage to the trainer that she worked so closely with moment before the accident, she put her pectoral fin under his feet. Slowly she pushed John towards the side of the pool, lifting him up as soon as they were close enough for him to step on the platform on the edge of the pool.


John could now get off her pectoral fin and be taken to a doctor for his injuries.