It’s been a long rough road for one whale. He started out his life in the ocean, and ended as the center of controversy and change at one of the world’s largest marine mammal facilities. Tilikum the whale has reportedly died after deteriorating health.
“Tilikum had, and will continue to have, a special place in the hearts of the SeaWorld family, as well as the millions of people all over the world that he inspired,” said President & CEO of SeaWorld Joel Manby. “My heart goes out to our team who cared for him like family.”
The whale was reportedly about 35 years old, older than the average life span for male Orcas in the wild, and captivity. He was originally taken from the waters in Iceland, and spent many years at Sealand in Canada. There it is speculated that whale was abused, and that he took part in the death of trainer Keltie Byrne. Tilikum was part of three whales in that tragic accident.
SeaWorld took the whale and cared for him since 1992. He was involved with three deaths total, the last being trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010.
The death and subsequent film, Blackfish, ignited worldwide conversation about keeping animals, Orcas in particular, in captivity. While the debate still rages on, SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby announced that while it would be too risky for the health of the animals, SeaWorld would be ending all active Killer Whale breeding, and phase out “entertainment shows” by 2019.
The shows will be replaced by educational programs, and virtual reality attractions which will get guests up close to the animals in new ways.
Tilikum will live on in with the many calves he fathered at the park over the years.
While Tilikum was just a whale to many of the outside world, to his trainers and those who took care of him, he was family. Like all those who lose a family member, we are sorry for your loss.
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