Tilikum, SeaWorld’s most infamous killer whale died on January 6, 2017 at the age of 35. The average life expectancy for a male killer whale, living in the wild, is around 60.
The outrage behind Tiliklum’s captivity began after the CNN documentary, Blackfish was released. The documentary focused on Tilikum and his life in captivity.
Tilikum was caught on the coast of Iceland in 1983 and was taken to “Sealand of the Pacific” which was located in Victoria, Canada. Tilikum stayed there for a total of 24 years, then was transferred to SeaWorld after he was involved in a Sealand trainers death.
A former SeaWorld trainer said that when Tilikum first started his training, he was “eager to learn” and caused no concern. Complications soon arose when an older whale was put with Tilikum for training purposes. The older whale would get frustrated when Tilikum did something wrong and would cover Tilikum in “rakes”(teeth marks). Tilikum would perform in shows with open wounds, this raised concern to the public. One scientist that spoke in Blackfish said that this was the beginning of Tilikum learning aggressive behaviour.
Tilikum killed two trainer’s at SeaWorld.
One morning in 1999, a man’s lifeless body was found draped over Tilikum’s back. It was assumed that the man snuck into the park after the park had closed, but authorities were unsure if the man jumped into the pool or if he was dragged in.
On February 24, 2010, one of SeaWorld’s top trainers Dawn Brancheau was dragged into the pool by Tilikum and was scalped and dismembered before she was drowned.
Howard Garrett, an Orca researcher said that there are no records of killer whales killing humans while living in the wild.
On December 7, 2010, PETA’s president sent a letter to SeaWorld regarding an announcement that stated SeaWorld was limiting Tilikum’s access to human contact. PETA pointed out that they were only frustrating Tilikum by keeping him confined and that this would only cause more problems. The letter referred to Tilikum as SeaWorld’s “chief sperm bank” and said that they were hoping it wouldn’t take another death to get SeaWorld to release Tilikum.
On March 19, 2016, SeaWorld’s blog, SeaWorldCares announced that Tilikum’s health was failing due to a bacterial lung infection.
On June 29, 2016, SeaWorldCares gave an update on Tilikum’s health and said that he was gaining weight and doing better. That was the last update that SeaWorld gave on Tilikum until on January 6, 2017 when they announced that Tilikum had died.
As I was doing research for this post, I found a quote in a National Geographic article that I think sums up this blog post, Blackfish and everything that is wrong with SeaWorld.
“Tilikum’s life was the subject of Blackfish, but when I began the film, I was terrified of him. I had nightmares about him,” says Cowperthwaite. “It was only when I learned about his capture, his life in captivity, that I began to understand the depth of this tragedy on so many levels.”
Do you agree that it’s time to empty the tanks? Check out emptythetanks.org for ways you can help put an end to marine life living in captivity.