As we celebrate all the wonderful father figures in our lives by chillin’ at the movies, owning the mini-golf course, or watching the game with Pops, let’s take a moment to remember Tilikum: SeaWorld’s most tragic father.

Tilikum (also known as Tilly) was abducted from his family and ocean home in 1983. He was only 2 years old when he was taken, and he would never see the ocean again.

Tilly’s stress, frustration, and confinement eventually drove him to kill three humans, including trainer Dawn Brancheau. After a lifetime of suffering at various marine parks that drove him to aggression and likely zoochosis, Tilly died in a barren tank at SeaWorld on January 6, 2017.

After Tilly, along with two other orcas, killed a trainer at Sealand of the Pacific, SeaWorld thought it would be a great idea to purchase him for its breeding program. Giving little thought to his formidable spirit and history of killing, SeaWorld “sexually stimulated” Tilly over and over and forcibly impregnated female orcas with his sperm.

Tilly was the biological father of more than half of the orcas who’ve been born at SeaWorld.

Tilly (like other male orcas in the breeding program) was trained to float on his back and present his penis so that SeaWorld trainers could sexually stimulate him to collect his sperm. #NastiestJobEver


This isn’t what fatherhood is supposed to look like.

Now, 30 years later, approximately 50 percent of orcas imprisoned at SeaWorld have his genes.

That’s one daddy with a lot of kids.

tilly seaworld orca tilikum

© Ingrid N. Visser, Ph.D. 

But Tilly never had the chance to be a real father. More than half of his children died—some before even being named. Most of his offspring who did survive were shipped to other SeaWorld parks before he ever got the chance to interact with them.

SeaWorld was forced to end its disgusting orca breeding program because people spoke up about how f**ked up it is to keep orcas in captivity, but it’s still paying trainers to sexually stimulate other mammal fathers, like other dolphins and belugas, at its parks.

Tilly’s tragic story reminds us that locking orcas up in tiny tanks is not only dangerous for humans but also emotionally traumatizing for the animals.

RIP, Tilly. You’re finally free. And we’re doing everything in our power to get your surviving children and grandchildren OUT of SeaWorld’s hellholes and into sea sanctuaries where they can have some semblance of a normal life.

Support fathers this Father’s Day: DON’T GO TO SEAWORLD.

Click here to help animals trapped at SeaWorld and other marine parks!