Books with Buzz Courage To Act by Ben S. Bernanke Learn more Shop Men's Shoes Learn more nav_sap_plcc_6M_fly_beacon Chad Valley All-New Amazon Fire TV Subscribe & Save Amazon Gift Card Offer blacklist blacklist blacklist  Amazon Echo Starting at $49.99 Kindle Voyage Shop Now STEM Toys & Games
Death at SeaWorld and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more

Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.

  • Apple
  • Android
  • Windows Phone
  • Android

To get the free app, enter your email address or mobile phone number.

Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See all 3 images

Death at SeaWorld: Shamu and the Dark Side of Killer Whales in Captivity Hardcover – July 17, 2012

268 customer reviews

See all 5 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price
New from Used from
"Please retry"
"Please retry"
$11.41 $2.99

"The Witches: Salem, 1692"
Pulitzer Prize winner Stacy Schiff reveals the mysteries of the Salem Witch Trials. See more American history books.

Editorial Reviews


Kirby makes a passionate case for captivity as the reason orcas become killers (and) tells the story like a thriller… We probably can't free the orcas in captivity today, but we could make the current group of captive killer whales the last. (Wall Street Journal)

A gripping inspection… Hard to put down. (Booklist (***Starred Review))

Brilliantly and intensively researched and conveyed with clarity and thoughtfulness, Kirby's work of high-quality non-fiction busts the whale debate wide open… Reads like a thriller and horrifies like Hannibal Lector. (San Francisco Book Review – FIVE STARS)

Kirby places this much-publicized tragic incident within the context of decades of warnings by marine biologists and animal advocates about the risks of keeping these giant predators in captivity. A real-life scientific thriller. (Barnes and Noble)

As David Kirby so eloquently documents in this timely work, killer-whale captivity only benefits the captors. It is impossible to read 'Death at SeaWorld' and come to any other conclusion. (Jane Goodall, Ph.D., D.B.E., Founder, the Jane Goodall Institute, UN Messenger of Peace)

Entertaining, engaging and enraging - The fairy tale fantasy that the captivity marine mammal industry has spun for the unwary public is expertly unraveled in this non-fiction crime thriller. (Louie Psihoyos, Academy Award winning director of The Cove)

In this authoritative and superbly investigative page-turner, certain to ruffle feathers and fins, David Kirby … reports brilliantly on the escalating troubles and conflicts, the surprising and sordid underbelly of life -- and death -- at SeaWorld. (Erich Hoyt, author of the best-selling classic Orca: The Whale Called Killer)

Death at SeaWorld is one of the most important books, if not the most important book, ever written on the horrific plight of captive cetaceans. Kirby systematically dismantles the arguments used to justify keeping these incredibly intelligent and sentient beings in aquatic cages. (Marc Bekoff, University of Colorado, author of The Emotional Lives of Animals)

This is a book everyone should read… David Kirby's 'Death at SeaWorld' outlines in grim detail just how bad captivity is for orcas and other marine mammals. (Richard O'Barry, Director of Earth Island Institute's Dolphin Project and star of The Cove)

At last, both sides of the story behind the events at SeaWorld are being told and the truth is finally getting out there. Every budding orca trainer should consider this the must-read book of their career. (Dr. Ingrid N. Visser, Founder & Principal Scientist, Orca Research Trust)

One helluva book! David Kirby provides the most complete and accurate account of what I perceive as a transgression of morality toward the animal kingdom---the slavery of orcas, supreme beings in the aquatic world. (Ken Balcomb, Director, Center for Whale Research)

David Kirby's research is impeccable and his words unforgettable. You will never view dolphin and orca shows the same way again. (Lori Marino, PhD, Senior Lecturer in Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology, Emory University)

This remarkable book deserves to be acknowledged as the most significant and moving account of the often disastrous interaction of cetaceans and humans since Moby-Dick. (Richard Ellis, author of Men and Whales, The Empty Ocean, and The Great Sperm Whale)

Kirby shows that the reality (of orca captivity) is more akin to a circus, in which any benefits are outweighed by the cost to the whale - and sometimes to the keepers. (Financial Times)

Thorough and disturbing… One of the great books of the summer (Columbus Dispatch)

SeaWorld got a firm slap in the form of journalist David Kirby's fascinating and deeply disturbing book. (Christian Science Monitor)

An outstanding book… very-well written, extremely well documented, and timely. (Psychology Today)

This is a warning-bell book on par with Upton Sinclair's The Jungle or Jessica Mitford's The American Way of Death… After Kirby's brutal and ground-breaking work, we can't say we weren't warned. (The National (U.A.E.))

An informed narrative that strongly suggests that despite their name, only when captured do the mammals become dangerous to humans. Free Willy, indeed. (New York Daily News)

Kirby has done his homework and does an excellent job of educating the public about orcas in the wild, as well as highlighting the dangers inherent in keeping these highly evolved, intelligent animals in captivity. (

Award-winning author David Kirby's forthcoming book, "Death at SeaWorld," meticulously chronicles the miserable lives and deaths of marine mammals in captivity. (Sacramento Bee)

A masterful work. (Seattle Post Intelligencer)

Eye-opening poolside reading… Death isn't supposed to pop up in environments carefully choreographed for family fun. (San Francisco Bay Guardian)

A real-life scientific thriller. (Barnes and Noble)

One of the summer's most anticipated new releases (Apple I-Bookstore)

A new book examining the dark side of keeping killer whales in captivity has slammed SeaWorld for its treatment of the enormous beasts and for massive safety failings which still haunt the world famous marine parks. (Daily Mail (UK))

Fascinating, shocking, even infuriating, but ultimately rewarding… Discover the majesty of killer whales, the inherent cruelty of their captivity and the passion of those who fight for their freedom. (Shelf Aware, Online Book Reviews)

A page-turning book… a disturbing account that will be hard for SeaWorld to transcend… Kirby makes it horrifyingly clear how serious (captivity) can be for human safety and orca well-being. (Wayne's Blog, Wayne Pacelle, CEO of The Humane Society of the United States)

Even if you're not an animal nut like me, David Kirby's Death at Sea World is a fascinating book. (Sam Simon, Co-Creator of The Simpsons and leading animal-rights activist)

An exhilarating journalistic achievement--the reporting is singularly deep and wide, the research enormously meticulous, the storytelling as gripping as in a great novel. (Talking Animals with Duncan Strauss, WMNF-FM, Tampa)

Readers who value the natural world and the other intelligent species we share it with will find Death at SeaWorld fascinating, shocking, even infuriating, but ultimately rewarding. (Shelf Awareness)

The important and accurate information in this book is strong… The hero of the book is Naomi Rose, whose doctoral research on wild orcas led to her current position as senior scientist at the Humane Society of the United States. (The Charlotte Observer)

[Death at SeaWorld] is required reading for anyone who wants to know what really goes on behind the glamour of SeaWorld. Get a copy of this book. It's about time it was written. (Fayetteville Observer)

Kirby's knockout format is articulate and mind-blowing. This riveting read is not one that will easily be dismissed. (Digital Journal)

Lives are at stake here, and Kirby can be trusted to tell the story, having won a passel of awards for his investigative work. (Library Journal)

Journalist Kirby offers another passionate industry exposé … the narrative goes into high gear with its concluding confrontation. (Publishers Weekly)

Captivity disrupts (orca) behavior in practically every manner. Contrary to marine mammal exhibition industry claims, orca lifespans are significantly shortened in captivity. (Animal People Magazine)

I particularly enjoyed this book. It reads very much like a novel to the point when you are staying up later than you should to finish it. (San Juan Island Update)

The bottom line of these findings is that keeping these magnificent beings in confinement is not a good thing. (Wild Time Radio TCR-FM (UK)

About the Author

DAVID KIRBY is the author of Evidence of Harm, which was a New York Times bestseller, winner of the 2005 Investigative Reporters and Editors award for best book, and a finalist for the New York Public Library Helen Bernstein Award for Excellence in Journalism, and Animal Factory, an acclaimed investigation into the environmental impact of factory farms. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

See all Editorial Reviews

Best Books of the Month
Best Books of the Month
Want to know our Editors' picks for the best books of the month? Browse Best Books of the Month, featuring our favorite new books in more than a dozen categories.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press (July 17, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1250002028
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250002020
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (268 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #250,539 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

80 of 97 people found the following review helpful By Karin Susan Fester on July 17, 2012
Format: Hardcover
David Kirby's book Death at SeaWorld documents and effectively engages with the fierce debate about whether it is good and right to keep killer whales (orcas) in captivity at marine theme parks for the purpose of entertaining the public. For his compelling argument, the author employs a wide range of sources: empirical evidence, scientific expert opinions, and numerous interviews with trainers and a host of others. Each chapter is packed with essential information and supports the author's comprehensive argumentation.

In February 2010, Tilikum, a male killer whale at SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida killed Dawn Brancheau, an experienced trainer, during a public performance. Tilikum is also directly linked to the death of Keltie Byrne in 1991 and Daniel Dukes in 1999. This is not only a human tragedy, but also one for the orca involved--Tilikum. The marine animal display industry has been harshly criticized already for several decades because they maintain orcas (killer whales) in captivity. The horrific tragedy in 2010 is now a catalyst for moving the debate forward. Anti-captivity advocates hope orca captivity will finally come to an end. However, it is not so simple.

Kirby provides critical discussion from both sides of the debate. He vigorously argues with support of insurmountable evidence and source material, that Tilikum, like countless other orcas held in captivity, is a genuine victim of humans' cruel, ignorant actions. The immense revenue generated from killer whale performances only perpetuates the ongoingmiserythat these animals must endure in their daily lives.
Read more ›
6 Comments Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
32 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Mark J. Palmer on September 11, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Review of "Death At SeaWorld: Shamu and the Dark Side of Killer Whales in Captivity" by David Kirby, St. Martin's Press, 469 pp.

By Mark J. Palmer
Associate Director
International Marine Mammal Project
Earth Island Institute

Author David Kirby has written a shocking expose of the SeaWorld marine parks and the dangers posed to both SeaWorld trainers and the captive orcas from captivity. "Death at SeaWorld" was inspired by the tragic death of SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010, when a captive male orca Tilikum grabbed her and pulled her into the tank with him. She died from blunt force trauma.

What is especially shocking is that Dawn was not the first trainer to die. Nor was she the first trainer to be killed by Tilikum. Furthermore, many captive orcas have died in SeaWorld over the years. As Kirby shows throughout the book, the deaths of trainers and orcas are related. Large carnivorous orcas do poorly in captivity, dying at young ages (Kirby notes that orcas in SeaWorld die at a rate two and a half times higher than orcas in the wild). And they can lash out at their trainers, with fatal results.

Kirby profiles Dr. Naomi Rose, a marine mammal biologist who has been in the forefront of efforts to stop the keeping of orcas and dolphins in captivity for the Humane Society of the United States. Also important to the story were several trainers who quit working at SeaWorld and came out publicly against the programs they originally were hired to serve. "Death at SeaWorld" follows Dr.
Read more ›
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
55 of 66 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth Batt on July 17, 2012
Format: Hardcover
From horrific orca captures to the tragic death of trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010, David Kirby's groundbreaking investigative thriller chillingly exposes a side of SeaWorld deftly hidden from public view, including the vast difference between orcas in captivity and their wild counterparts.

In the Northern Resident orca community for example, "orcas have their own cultures," Kirby explains, with each pod having its own signature collection of clicks and whistles. Rose discovered and wrote in her dissertation, that "Residents travel in matrifocal [centered on the mother] units called matrileneal groups." In other words, Kirby said, from infancy to old age, male orcas "spend most of their time by their mother's side," thus making them "the planet's ultimate mama's boys."

Quite unlike their Resident counterparts, Transient killer whales are less vocal and less maternal, the book says. In fact some scientists the author explained, "now believe that the two ecotypes should officially be designated distinct species." These two types of orcas Kirby adds, really "do not like to mix." It's a point hammered home harshly later in the book, when SeaWorld's breeding program is explored in more depth, and it is revealed that Transient orcas are bred to Resident orcas, without any regard for the differences between "species and races."

Former trainers at SeaWorld said the compnay possessed a culture all of its own. A world of "operant conditioning" and smoke and mirrors designed to obfuscate the most discerning guest. Use of industry "buzzwords" coupled with drilled responses were part of a comprehensive handbook and repertoire that trainers were compelled to learn.
Read more ›
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again

Most Recent Customer Reviews

Want to discover more products? Check out these pages to see more: killer whales teeth, john ventre, fields of death