Lakeland, FL -- Disturbing video captured by a Bay area family and posted on YouTube is going viral.
The images show what appears to be a dolphin at SeaWorld, struggling for several minutes to get back into the water with no one there to help.
Several spectators were angered and disturbed by what they witnessed on July 20. Cast members and trainers from the aquatic show had left the stage because of lightning in the area, but the animals were still in the tank.
Carlo De Leonibus, 33, and his wife Ashley had brought his daughter Catiana to Seaworld to celebrate the young girl's 11th birthday.
"She loves dolphins. And that's exactly why we went to SeaWorld," said Carlo.
And Cat was having a great time, until a short-finned pilot whale -- a member of the dolphin family -- tried unsuccessfully to get itself back into the water.
For several minutes the family and others watched the animal struggle as it tried to get itself off a ledge at the edge of the pool.
In video taken by Carlo and now going viral and YouTube, other dolphins even appear to share its desperation.
"It keeps flipping. It keeps flapping. Other dolphins come to push it back in, swim around it. And it doesn't go back in," said Carlo.
After several minutes, Carlo had seen enough. He says he went to a SeaWorld worker, who assured him the animal would eventually get itself back in the water.
"He says, 'Oh it's normal. This is what they do. This is how they have fun. They're just playing.'"
But with each passing minute the crowd gets louder, demanding action. Something, they sense, is wrong.
"The crowd was in a rage, in an uproar. Some of them were stomping their feet. The gentleman behind me threatened to go protest. He was really upset," said Carlo.
A voice from the loudspeakers assured the crowd they were aware of the situation and eventually two trainers arrived to push the dolphin back into the pool.
Carlo says his daughter was so disturbed by what she witnessed, she's decided at her young age to dedicate herself to helping aquatic wildlife.
"She was heartbroken. She was crying at night. She was really upset. She felt that SeaWorld was going to take care of their animals," said Carlo.
10 News contacted SeaWorld and asked them for a response to the video. Theme park spokesman Nick Gollattscheck said, "The pilot whales come out on the ledge all the time and always get back into the deeper water without any problem."
"The animals seem to enjoy it" he added, "and it has no effect on their health or well being. The younger and more inexperienced animals - like the one on the video - sometimes take a little longer, because they haven't completely mastered the technique yet. The whale was never in danger.
"The safety and health of the animals in our care are among our highest priorities."
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