Tilikum The Orca, Center Of ‘Blackfish’ Documentary, Has Died In Captivity
January 6 / Rick Chandler / SportsGrid
Only days after it was announced that the oldest-known killer whale in the wild, Granny, had died, one of SeaWorld's main whale attractions, Tilikum, has also passed on.
No -- check that, "passed on" is wrong. It would be more accurate to say that Tilikum was murdered slowly over a span of 33 years by SeaWorld, living its life in a bathtub. He died alone, having never tasted live fish or even real seawater for most of his life.
It's a crime that Tilikum had to die to finally get his freedom.
The average age of a Killer Whale is 50-90 years (with 1 recorded at 105).#Tilikum was 33 years old. Do you see the problem yet? #Blackfish
Indeed, the big difference in the two Orca deaths is that Granny, the matriarch of the Southern Waters Orca pod (Seattle, Vancouver area), was 105 years old. Tilikum was 36. SeaWorld says that the cause of death was a bacterial infection in the lungs. But what we know is this: The average age of Orcas that die in the wild is 60-70 years. The average age of Orcas that die in captivity is 13.
Tilikum was captured in Icelandic waters in 1983, was shipped to Sealand of the Pacific in Victoria, British Columbia, and transferred in 1992 to SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida, after killing a trainer. The Orca was actually involved in the deaths of three people: also killing a man trespassing on SeaWorld Orlando's property, and a trainer at SeaWorld.
Tilikum was heavily featured in Gabriela Cowperthwaite' 2013 documentary Blackfish, which was picked up by CNN Films and was nominated for several awards. It's said that the documentary was the main reason that SeaWorld discontinued its Orca captive breeding program (capturing live whales was made illegal in the late 1980s).
Still, people are more than a little pissed that these huge, magnificent creatures are still in custody.
I suggest anyone who hasn't watched #Blackfish, should do so. You'll realise death is no doubt the only freedom #Tilikum will ever enjoy.