SeaWorld has announced today that Tilikum — the orca who was the focus of the documentary Blackfish — is gravely ill, and may soon die from his condition. The killer whale has a chronic bacterial lung infection that’s incurable and has been making him “increasingly lethargic.” Although SeaWorld didn’t outright say that Tilikum is dying, it was heavily implied.
Tilikum — who was involved in the 1991 death of a trainer and the 1999 death of a trespasser who sneaked into the killer whale area — helped sparked a global conversation about the inherent cruelty of keeping marine mammals in captivity. No matter how large an orca enclosure may seem to humans, it’s a minuscule fraction of the space granted to whales swimming freely in the ocean.
Given that captive orcas usually only live to see their 20s — whereas wild orcas live an average of 50 years, and have been known to live into their hundreds (as in the case of “Granny“) — it seems clear that SeaWorld is a terrible place to live if you’re a killer whale. Tilikum is estimated to be about 35 years old.
But rather than acknowledging the idea that captivity ain’t the place for orcas, SeaWorld issued the propaganda video below showing that Tilikum is getting the “utmost care.”
What a shame that Tilikum had to spend his life in orca hell.