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Former SeaWorld Worker Says Orcas 'Lost Skin' From Abusive Conditions

09/12/2015 11:33 GMT | Updated 09/12/2015 11:59 GMT

A former SeaWorld employee has revealed disturbing details of the exhibits and living conditions of the park's captive killer whales.

Sarah Fischbeck, who joined the San Diego branch of the company in 2007, spent six years working across the different departments, including performing maintenance on the tanks and diving with the animals.

She told The Dodo: "If people knew what I know, or saw what I have seen, they wouldn't sell another ticket".

orca

Some disturbing stories have been revealed by a former SeaWorld employee

Fischbeck said fighting amongst the whales had gruesome consequences: "You'd be diving at the bottom of the tanks and you'd find these long strips of what looked like black rubber," she said.

Explaining how the pieces of skin came loose, she said it was caused by the other orcas teeth, confirming the severity of the in-fighting.

"It was skin they'd peeled off each other. We had divers take whale skin home to their families all the time as souvenirs," she continued.

The former employee also detailed accounts of the animals chasing each other and one extreme case of an orca hoisting herself over a locked pool, to escape the scratches of the other captives.

Earlier this year clippings from an upcoming documentary revealed an orca at the same park lying listless in its performance pool for what appeared to be hours.

At the time marine life experts and animal rights groups slammed the behaviour. PETA UK Director Mimi Bekhechi describing the video to the Huffington Post UK as "deeply disturbing" and a "sharp contrast to orca mothers and their babies in the wild."

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Since then SeaWorld has been ordered not to breed its orcas, despite it just dishing out $100 million (£65million) towards the expansion of new tanks.

The ruling by California Coastal Commission approved developments of the enclosures in the San Diego venue on 8 October.

John Hargrove, a former SeaWorld trainer in California and Texas who has written a book about his experiences and appeared in the "Blackfish" film, said the captive whales are heavily medicated and family structures that define life in the wild are broken.

The whales gnaw the edges of their pools, breaking or wearing teeth, and inbreeding has created "hybrid orcas who have no true social identity," he said.