As SeaWorld got ready to resume conducting its Shamu Believe shows at its three parks today, it posted a video tribute to slain trainer Dawn Brancheau on its blog.
The video shows Brancheau, who was killed by orca whale Tilikum on Wednesday, frolicking in the waters and working with the whales at SeaWorld in Orlando.
"Today in memory of Dawn we are doing a tribute to her before the first Believe show at each of our three SeaWorld parks," the SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment blog says. "This has been an extremely difficult time for the entire Shamu family. We believe that Dawn would want our work with these whales, that she loved so much, to continue. So with that in mind, we dedicate our shows this weekend to our dear friend."
SeaWorld's video tribute is another example of the company's deft use of social media at a very sensitive moment.
However, cynics might argue that it is a skillful public relations move as SeaWorld combats critics who want to see the whale shows terminated.
Blog comments under the video post recalled tourists' interactions with Brancheau and included criticism of SeaWorld, as well.
For example, an anonymous comment states:
“SeaWorld cannot ignore that this happened. This is the third human life lost due to "accidents" with the same orca. That is too many people killed to be deem it rare. A tribute to Dawn at the show is most appropriate. But what will be the next step? Will the administrators of SeaWorld continue to use the animal that has now killed three people? What kind of tribute will be appropriate for the next victim?
“God Bless you, Dawn. This is a terrible loss to your family and the countless people whose lives you touched. Your death brings attention to the practices at Sea World, and may be saving the animals that you loved.”
Other unofficial tributes and videos about the fatal incident were popping up on YouTube.