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After 30 Years in Hell, Famous Orca May Never Experience Freedom Again

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Posted March 8, 2016 by Kim Johnson

SeaWorld recently announced that the most famous whale it holds in captivity, Tilikum, is sick with a possible bacterial infection, and several news agencies have reported that the 12,500-pound orca is near death. And PETA President Ingrid Newkirk has released a statement pointing out that “the sickness at SeaWorld is with its management, which has deliberately caused Tilikum to suffer immensely by confining him to a small concrete tank for decades, causing him to succumb to mental illness that has resulted in aggression and now to some incurable illness.” 

tilly seaworld orca tilikum© Ingrid N. Visser, Ph.D.

When he was just 2 or 3 years old, Tilikum was captured from his family and ocean home near Iceland. That was in 1983—over 30 years ago. He has never seen his family since then. This was the beginning of his living nightmare.

When Tilikum did not perform a trick correctly, food was withheld from both him and his tankmates, which caused a great deal of tension, and as a result, Haida and Nootka would bite Tilikum and rake the entire length of his body with their teeth.Steve Huxter / The Voice Of The Orcas

When Tilikum did not perform a trick correctly, food was withheld from both him and his tankmates, which caused a great deal of tension, and as a result, Haida and Nootka would bite Tilikum and rake the entire length of his body with their teeth.

After his capture, Tilly was held in a small tank in Iceland before being transferred to Sealand of the Pacific in British Columbia, Canada, which is where he killed trainer Keltie Byrne after she fell into the pool in 1991. Shortly after Byrne’s death, Sealand closed its doors for good and sold Tilly to SeaWorld for the park’s breeding program. Tilikum’s sperm was used to breed a collection of orcas. He has now been at SeaWorld for over 21 years and has fathered  21 calves—although as of last year, only 10 were still alive.

tilikum trapped at seaworld

The stress of captivity has driven Tilikum to exhibit abnormal repetitive behavior and has also caused him to continue to exhibit aggression toward humans, costing two more lives—those of Daniel P. Dukes in 1999 and Dawn Brancheau in 2010. Tilikum scalped and dismembered Brancheau as well as breaking bones throughout her body before drowning her. Aggression toward humans is rare in orcas in nature, but the constant stress of living in incompatible social groupings inside cramped tanks at SeaWorld is what caused Tilly to lash out. 

Following Dawn’s tragic death, Tilikum was kept in tiny enclosures that limited his ability to swim, communicate with other orcas, and interact with humans even further. He was reported to have been floating listlessly in the water for hours at a time, a behavior never seen in wild orcas.

Following Dawn’s tragic death, Tilikum was kept in tiny enclosures that limited his ability to swim, communicate with other orcas, and interact with humans even further. He was reported to have been floating listlessly in the water for hours at a time, a behavior never seen in wild orcas.

If Tilly dies in his concrete prison tank and never gets to see the ocean again, his blood will be on SeaWorld’s hands. 

What You Can Do

Remember: Every dollar spent on a SeaWorld ticket contributes to Tilikum’s misery and to the pain and suffering of the other animals held captive there. NEVER go to any SeaWorld park, and urge your friends and family to stay away, too. Together, we can shut down SeaWorld for good!

HONOR TILIKUM BY SHARING THIS STORY!

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