Trainers invent new toothbrush for killer whale

1:03 PM, Mar 19, 2010   |    comments
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Orlando, Florida -- Whale trainers at SeaWorld in Orlando are taking new safety precautions when it comes to the killer whale that drowned a trainer last month.

According to park officials, trainers will stand farther away from the whale when brushing his teeth. Trainers will now have a 2-foot extension to brush Tilikum's teeth three times a day.

Forty-year-old Dawn Brancheau was killed after being thrashed underwater by the whale after a performance. Tilikum grabbed her by her long ponytail and pulled her below the water in front of about 20 spectators.

Pictures: Killer whale immediately after Sea World attack

After the Feb. 24 death, SeaWorld removed Tilikum from its daily shows and ordered its trainers to keep their distance from the animal. He is twice as big as any other orca at the park. The park imposed the restrictions while it reviews its killer whale safety protocols, which is now expected to extend into April.

Tilikum continues to live in the park's seven-tank orca complex and learns new behaviors now that trainers don't get close to him.

There's a hearing next week in which a judge could decide whether or not to release video of the attack. The judge has already granted a temporary request to prohibit the release of video. The judge says he will decide at the hearing whether the need to publicly evaluate what happened outweighs the privacy concerns of trainer Dawn Brancheau's family. SeaWorld and Brancheau's family want to suppress video footage of the attack. Her family says public airing of the killing would only worsen their grief.

Here are links to all of our coverage of the SeaWorld Orlando attack:

(© 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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