Tilikum. The largest whale – in captivity. ‘Famous’ for the death of Dawn Brancheu and is connected to others; but Tilikum is dying himself. A bacterial infection in his lungs is killing him slowly.
Tilikum is one of the many unfortunate creatures that get separated from their family. He was found near Iceland. The male whales would get the poachers in their boats to chase them, so that the females and the babies could escape. Yet, the poachers had aircrafts and the whales had to come up for air at some point. This is when they would get the nets to pick out the young ones. The whole time, the whales were waiting next to the boats, calling out to their calves. One of the ‘fishermen’ said it was “like kidnapping a child from their mother”. Sometimes, they would find dead orcas in the nets, which they would then fill the orcas with rocks so that they would sink.
This is what happened to Tilikum. He was sent to Sealand. Sealand was basically a bathtub for these creatures. Tilikum would spend two thirds of his life in a bathtub, with no stimulation. He would be kept with other females. The trouble with this is that orcas speak different languages, and also there is a hierarchy. In the ocean, there is an exit everywhere, but in there, there was nowhere to run. Tilikum would come out in the morning with rake marks (teeth marks) from the females and sometimes he would be bleeding.
During one of his shows at Sealand, a trainer (Keltie Byrne) fell into the tank. Tilikum dragged her down to the bottom of the pool, drowning her. The females were circling around him as he did it. It took two hours for the trainers to recover the woman’s body from the whales.
Sealand probably thought that they were giving the whales a better life after they closed down. Tilikum was sent to Seaworld. Sealand were under the impression that none of these whales would be used for shows. Tilikum was used for breeding purposes. Although, because of his previous behaviour, he shouldn’t have been used for that. Fifty four percent of the orcas in Seaworld have Tilikum’s genes.
Nevertheless, Seaworld used Tilikum for shows, where he attacked again. The most famous of his attacks is the ‘Dawn Brancheu’ incident. She was a senior trainer, and was doing a ‘Dining with Shamu’. Tilikum scalped and dismembered the trainer and broke many bones before drowning her. Seaworld claimed that Tilikum had grabbed her ponytail playfully (and newspapers used this story) when in actual fact, Tilikum grabbed her arm and pulled her into the water.
He also killed an intoxicated man who snuck into Seaworld at night and got into Tilikum’s pool. He was found drowned in the morning with bite marks all over his body and mutilated. The stories that were told were that he got hyperthermia and drowned due to this, but his autopsy reports proved something else.
Orcas are highly intelligent creatures. They have an extra part of the brain, which is for emotions. Killer Whales feel a lot; they have strong emotions. Seaworld had a calf called Kalina. She was separated from her mother and it was reported that her mother made noises all night. They figured out she was using long range vocals to locate her calf. The adults never leave their mother’s side in the wild.
Orcas experience high amounts of frustration, aggressiveness and not only that; they experience a lot of pain. Whales in captivity die too young. We have actually found out that orcas have the same life expectancy as humans, yet the average life expectancy in Seaworld is 13 years old. His floppy dorsal fin is from stress. One percent of whales in the wild get a floppy dorsal fin, yet over ninety percent have it in captivity.
Tilikum is over 30 years old, yet he is still too young. He is just floating in a box until he dies. Trainers said that he would be still for hours, something that has never been seen in whales.
Whales shouldn’t be in captivity, they shouldn’t be used as entertainment, as money makers. It’s morally wrong. Orcas in the wild have never hurt a human, in Seaworld there are over 100 cases of Killer Whales showing aggression or hurting trainers.
Tilikum is just one example of these whales. Yet everyday whales endure this torture, they float around in a pool lifelessly. Seaworld cover up these stories, they reject these ideas.
Orcas don’t belong in a tank. They belong in the ocean were they can swim miles and miles with their family. Where they can pick their own mates. Where they can be free.