Dawn Brancheau

by Brooke from Mission Viejo

"You can't put yourself in the water unless you trust them and they trust you." -Dawn Brancheau
Dawn Brancheau with Tilikum  (
Dawn Brancheau with Tilikum (

My hero is Dawn Brancheau. I first became aware of her when she died. She was performing at a Sea World show and the whale grabbed her ponytail and pulled her into the tank, drowning her. What attracts me to this career is how she was devoted to her work and she considered the whales her children since she didn’t have any. She loved her job so much and died doing it. It is a dangerous job, but it was an accident. Things like that don’t happen all the time, but I really have a passion for this job exactly like Dawn did.

Dawn Brancheau was a Sea World orca whale trainer. She performed at the shows and trained the whales to entertain people. She went to the college at the University of South Carolina and studied psychology and animal behavior. You need to have studied biology to be considered for this job. She got experience by working at Six Flags as a dolphin trainer and later finally got the job she wanted at Sea World. Some training requirements are stage experience, animal experience and good physical conditioning. An orca trainer salary usually starts with $26,260 a year and goes up depending on your level of experience.

Ever since Dawn was ten, she had always wanted to be an orca whale trainer. Her family would always go to Sea World and she was amazed by how these wonderful creatures could be with humans and she wanted to be the person that got to be with them. She had always cared for animals, which made her perfect for this job. In high school, Dawn was the student body president. She was a leader, very intelligent and outgoing. She first got a job at Six Flags in New Jersey as a dolphin trainer and two years later she was offered her dream job and finally became a Sea World orca whale trainer. Dawn did this happily for the rest of her life.

Dawn Brancheau kissing Tilikum (
Dawn Brancheau kissing Tilikum (

There are many ways Dawn helped others. She built relationships with the orca whales, and some of the whales were rescued, and made them feel at home and gave them lots of love and care. With this she entertained millions of families a year and shared with the world how beautiful the animals are. She also Educated the public about orca whales and helped people understand how we need to keep a clean environment for the health of the whales. Dawn was a wonderful person that made her family proud, made families happy and lived her dream.

To be like Dawn Brancheau I want to do very well in high school. I am volunteering at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach to get more hands on experience with animals. I am going to take math and science classes throughout of the four years. Then I will take swimming classes to become a strong swimmer. So, like Dawn I also am starting at a young age. In college I will major in biology and study psychology and animal behavior as well. After college I plan to work for an aquarium for a while and then move up to Sea World as an orca whale trainer. I would not want to die early like she did but I would like to do what I love for as long as I could. I want to live the rest of my life happy and doing my job with passion and love for the beautiful marine animals.

Page created on 4/29/2010 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 4/29/2010 12:00:00 AM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.

Related Links

Ask Shamu - Frequently asked questions about Seaworld Careers
Ask Shamu - Frequently asked questions about killer whales
Animal training at Seaworld - Information about animal training