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David W. Kenney dies at 77; SeaWorld's first veterinarian

David W. Kenney played a key role in bringing the original Shamu to the San Diego amusement park as well as a gray whale believed to be the first raised by humans.

March 14, 2012|By Elaine Woo, Los Angeles Times

In 1971, Kenney tried again. At Baja's Scammon Lagoon, he and a SeaWorld crew managed to maneuver a gray whale calf under their boat and slip a hoop around it. They carefully hauled it to the beach, where it was placed on a stretcher and floated out to a larger boat for the 300-mile trip back to San Diego.

The whale was named Gigi (for gray girl). She was the first whale of the large baleen variety known to be captured unharmed, taken inland for a year of study and successfully released.

During her captivity, she fascinated Kenney and dozens of visiting scientists, who were able to observe for the first time how a great whale breathes and eats.

Kenney left Sea World in 1972 to return to private practice. He operated several animal clinics in Southern California and later in Colorado, where he moved with his second wife, Connie Stapleton, also a veterinarian.

In addition to his wife and Maler, his sister, he is survived by a daughter, Gwendolyn; four sons, Shane, Miles and Lucas Kenney and Colin Rognlie; a sister, Elisabeth Ecke; a brother, William; and eight grandchildren.

elaine.woo@latimes.com

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