Tilikum—the orca who was the subject of Blackfish, a documentary about SeaWorld—is dead following decades of loneliness, stress, and confinement at marine parks.

When Tilikum (aka “Tilly”) was just 2 years old, people abducted him from his family in the open waters off Iceland and forced him to live in cramped enclosures for the remainder of his life. He was unable to swim away, travel the oceans, hear or see his family, or do anything that was important to him.

tilly seaworld orca tilikum

© Ingrid N. Visser, Ph.D. 

His human captors tried to look better by calling Tilikum part of their “family,” but family doesn’t kidnap its members from their mothers, keep them in a barren enclosure for life, and force them to do tricks for money. 

Since SeaWorld can no longer capture orcas from the wild, workers collected his sperm to make more orca performers—and more money—through artificial insemination. His children were brought into a miserable life that no one would ever willingly choose.

tilikum trapped at seaworld

The constant stress of confinement drove Tilikum to kill three humans—including trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010—and to chew on the concrete and the bars of his prison, which wore down his teeth to nubs. It is no surprise that he suffered from mental illness under such conditions and, finally, died of an incurable physical illness.

seaworld trainer dawn brancheau killed by orca

Dawn Brancheau-Riders on the Storm | Ed Schipul | CC by-SA 2.0 

Tilikum died in his concrete prison cell, but  humans actually took his life away the day they stole him from the ocean over 30 years ago. Eleven of Tilikum’s children died prematurely before him without ever seeing the ocean, and 10 more of his children continue to suffer in cramped tanks. PETA is calling on SeaWorld to do the right thing by moving the remaining orcas it holds captive to coastal sanctuaries, where they could enjoy a more natural life. 

What You Can Do

Honor Tilly’s memory by pledging NEVER to go to SeaWorld or any other place that uses animals for profit! 


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