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article imageFormer SeaWorld trainer and 'Blackfish' star lands book deal Special

By Elizabeth Batt     Jun 11, 2014 in Environment
Former killer whale trainer John Hargrove, just announced a major book deal with Macmillan Publishing. 'Beneath the Surface' (working title), will hit the shelves early next year, and will reveal more insider info on SeaWorld's backstage operations.
Scheduled for release in April 2015, Hargrove's book will cover areas left untouched by the documentary 'Blackfish'. Set to be published by Palgrave Macmillan, the book will delve even deeper into an area of SeaWorld that the public rarely encounters.
It will be another damning testimony against a corporation that is still reeling from David Kirby's 'Death at SeaWorld', published in 2012, and 'Blackfish', which was released in 2013.
According to Hargrove, there is so much more to be told.
"Trainers nearly died," Hargrove informed The Wrap last week, "and we didn't even touch on those."
Former SeaWorld trainer John Hargrove just secured a major book deal with Macmillan Publishing.
Former SeaWorld trainer John Hargrove just secured a major book deal with Macmillan Publishing.
John Hargrove
But Hargrove will address one attack in particular, the 2010 death of Dawn Brancheau, a senior trainer at the marine park who was killed after a brutal attack by an orca named Tilikum. What the public didn't see, Hargrove said, was how SeaWorld executives handled the incident's aftermath. It's an area the former trainer plans to shed some light on, in his forthcoming book.
The decision to step forward has cost Hargrove friends. Former colleagues have turned their backs on him. In some cases, the animal trainer told Digital Journal, attempts to discredit him have crossed into outward lying. One example offered by Hargrove, was the furor over this scene from 'Blackfish', where he incurs a bloody face after an incident involving a whale:
"Kyle Kittleson, told everybody I ran into a screen," Hargrove explained. "I do not know Kyle Kittleson, I have never worked with Kyle Kittleson, he has never done waterwork with killer whales and he was not there when this incident happened. Yet according to him, I ran into a jumbotron."
A personal low for the former trainer came via his colleague and good friend, Wendy Ramirez. Currently employed by SeaWorld, Ramirez outwardly lied Hargrove said, when she filmed the video below and accused him of hitting, "his head on the side of a pool jumping into a shallow area." Ramirez then concluded, "it had nothing to do with the animals at all."
In direct contention with Ramirez' statement, is SeaWorld's own 69-point critique of the 'Blackfish' documentary. "If you look at point 49," Hargrove explained, "SeaWorld writes in the first sentence that my injury 'had nothing whatsoever to do with any whale'. Yet in the next sentence," he added, "they describe me as doing a footpush into a stageslide. Did I jettison myself across the stage?"
Hargrove said SeaWord's final version of how he injured his face occurred during a park-wide employee meeting, held in San Diego in mid-May. An insider informed him that Robbin Sheets, the Assistant Curator at Shamu Stadium, had accused him of performing a dangerous maneuver with a killer whale:
First I walked into a screen; then I hit the concrete by myself with no whale involved, and now I was in the water doing a maneuver with a killer whale. Sheets told people that the run that I was doing was too dangerous and I had been repeatedly told to stop. According to Sheets, I apparently refused to stop, and that is how I busted my head open.
Hargrove explained that SeaWorld places its trainers under a microscope at all times. "If I had done a run that was too dangerous — just one time, they would have pulled me from that behavior," he said. "They would not have let me continue to over and over, and over again, do something that they felt was too dangerous. In reality, I was doing the same run that I always did, the only difference was the speed of Corky, which was abnormal in that situation. That's what caused the injury to happen."
Hargrove said he was jettisoned, "so abnormally fast by Corky, that it caused another senior trainer I was pre-planned to tackle on stage, to back out out of the way. This other trainer's own words at the time, were, "you were going way too fast ... there was no way I was going to let you hit me that hard'."
Hargrove's injury itself was documented, the former trainer said, but he received no oral or written warning from SeaWorld management:
If I had screwed up, it would have been documented in my file. And none of that exists. There is no documentation of anyone ever having a conversation with me over a run that was too dangerous, because it wasn't.
But Sheets, Hargrove claims, has lied before. Hargrove said that during the hearing on the Orca Welfare and Safety Act or AB-2140 in Sacramento last April, Sheets took the microphone in support of SeaWorld and claimed that in 25 years as a SeaWorld trainer, he had never been injured.
April 08  2014. John Hargrove testifying on behalf of AB-2140 in the California State Assembly.
April 08, 2014. John Hargrove testifying on behalf of AB-2140 in the California State Assembly.
Stillshot California State Assembly Video
"He lied to the California State Assembly," Hargrove said. "Because I was personally present on two separate occasions when he was hospitalized." Hargrove continued:
Both incidents occurred in the water. One of them was a big behavior gone wrong — similar to mine but a different behavior, and the other was caused by actual aggression displayed by a killer whale named Orkid. Robbin Sheets lied, and his credibility is in question. Further proof exists in Judge Welsh' 47-page ruling in the OSHA case. The incident with Orkid was referenced on p. 24. "R. S. (rammed in stomach by Orkid in 1998 at SeaWorld of California".
Hargrove added that all interactions with the killer whales at SeaWorld are always documented. "They're called daily animal training interaction records," he said, "and whether it's a session, a show, or playtime, we make note of it." The former trainer explained, "even if we just move them into another pool, or call them over to feed them, it's documented. Who did the interaction, what trainer's initials are on it, how many minutes the interaction was, how much food they received and what their behavior rating was."
Hargrove continued:
John and Takara at Shamu Stadium Texas
John and Takara at Shamu Stadium Texas
John Hargrove
Also in those records are all the times that we've medicated our whales and who gave the medication, what the medications were, and the dosage of them. We even note how many times we force our whales to go into that 8-foot deep medical pool. It's all in there. Their [SeaWorld's] worst nightmare is to be in some type of litigation where these records had to be turned over, thus making them available to anybody through the Freedom of Information Act [FOIA]. These records tell every, little, dirty secret.
More of SeaWorld's dirty secrets will be exposed in his book, Hargrove said, as he expressed his frustration over SeaWorld's habit of constantly blaming their trainers, whenever things go wrong. "If you have nothing to hide, and you tout your world class veterinary care, then turn over your daily animal training interaction records," challenged Hargrove. "They won't do it," he added, "because their hands are dirty, they have something to hide, and they're not transparent."
'Beneath the Surface' (working title), published by Palgrave Macmillan, is scheduled for release in April 2015.
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