The following is an excerpt from the book Killer Whales, Tigers, Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll.: An untold story of Royal Windsor Safari Park. written by Terence M Bobrowicz. Here, he describes the first moments of his meeting orca Ramu, with whom he worked intimately for many years.
Says Bobrowicz: “My relationship with Ramu, who was regarded as the most dangerous killer whale in captivity during the 70’s, was something utterly astonishing and very emotional, and I genuinely believe that he and I crossed a divide of minds that few can ever know about, and that even in the very small world of Marine Mammal Training, I know our relationship was something utterly unique, and something that still to this day is relatively unknown.”
“As I stood there, the world busily passed that unnoticed neglected moment. He, Ramu, with his great steely black-grey eye firmly fixed unflinching on my every movement, gave me deep cold penetrating look which made me think if only for a few seconds, that somehow he was studying me. It was a gaze which sent a sudden icy finger of realisation shivering down my spine, an altogether unusual feeling, one I had never experienced before, something unexplainable that had no reasoning, something that resisted even words. Inexplicably I felt as though that great leviathan knew all and everything that he ever wanted or needed to know about me, a look that made me feel vulnerable, exposed, and naked before him. It was something that triggered feelings within me that I had no rational explanation for, those I really didn’t understand, in the flickering of a moment that great whale had somehow seen me, not just a man standing there on the poolside, but something more than that, something altogether deeper, maybe he knew my feelings, my thoughts, and possibly even the being that I was too.”
“I don’t know how or why I should have stumbled across such a thought on that day, but I did understand as though an echo of something lost, something inexplicably primeval, that the key to understanding Ramu, maybe even all whales, wasn’t what I a human being was thinking about him, but instead what was in his mind, how he though of me, us, we creatures that had taken him from his family and were now keeping him in that pool. Size, teeth, fear, and even the wide gap of our species had little to do with any of it. His feelings, his emotions, and my empathy for him were where the key to understanding Ramu.
It was perfectly true that Ramu with his reputation was an angry and dangerous being. He was angry at the loss of his freedom, angry with us, we that had taken it from him, those beings that had denied him of everything he knew, everything that he understood, and loved.
As I stood there it took no effort at all to know that he was fully aware of the unwanted situation he had found himself in. I had never seen nor been so close to a whale before, but somehow I understood his anger, his sadness and that he knew too, that while still holding his adolescent memories, he would never fulfill his true destiny in his lost wide open seas of the wild, he knew only too well he would never be able to follow the matriarch of his own pod, have a family, guide his young, feel the thrill, the experience of an adrenalin filled rush while hunting with those of his own kind, nor would he swim with wonder as his companion, amid the great white icebergs of the cold northern oceans. Was it any wonder then, that he, Ramu had such a fearsome reputation, such anger, and every right to feel that way?”
Terence M Bobrowicz worked as Head Trainer at Windsor Safari Park Dolphinarium during the 1970’s. He also worked with a traveling dolphin show that went throughout Europe, and also as the first manager of the Luxembourg Dolphinarium. He is a published author, writing about his years of experiences with cetaceans.
Headline photo of author with Ramu, taken by Wayne Reid, 1976.