In late November a young girl was feeding Dolphins at SeaWorld Orlando’s Dolphin Cove exhibit when she was bit on the hand by the dolphin she had been feeding. A scary moment for the family, no doubt. This is not the first incident of this sort, but it is very rare, happening only once or twice a decade. Considering the vast number of visitors who feed the dolphins without injury and the small magnitude of this injury, I don’t think it’s that big of a deal.
SeaWorld released a statement saying: “Nothing is more important to us than the health and safety of our guests, employees and animals. Educators and animal care staff were at the attraction when this happened and immediately connected with the family.” It definitely looks like that was the case.
Here’s how ABC news covered the incident:
It does looks like the little girl was violating one of the safety rules explained to guests. Dolphins have a hard time telling the difference between the white fish trays and the fish. So guests are told not to hold the food tray out over the water. The young guest looks like she forgot this rule.
This was the family’s second visit to feed the dolphins. They had such a great time earlier that they returned to do it again. The family claims the young girl might have forgotten the rules in her excitement to feed the dolphins again.
Below is the family’s original video which sensationalizes the incident a bit. I’m including it because for me it highlights the fine line that theme parks walk every day offering unique and thrilling experiences where the elements of danger are downplayed at yet there is real risk. No, if the young girl had been pulled into the water she wouldn’t have died. But there are real risks with rides that offer extended high-g experiences, real risks with riding on moving vehicles with no doors, etc.
Theme parks and other entertainment risks incidents like this blowing up into real negative word of mouth when families do over-react like I believe the family is doing in this video:
Despite the family video, it’s not a matter of time before someone gets seriously hurt on this attraction. The risks are very very low for serious injury. Unfortunately, Dolphin bites do happen from time to time, but not out of vicious behavior from the Dolphins. They just want food and some are a bit aggressive when it comes to getting their snack. In their defense, the parents sound much more reasonable in this story in the Orlando Sentinel.
How about you, will this incident change your view of SeaWorld and its Dolphin Cove attraction?