What is Punishment? Punishment is being netted away from your Mother at no more than two years old and driven off in the night for what would become your tortured life in captivity. Tilikum spent his first year of captivity at Harfnarfjour Marine Zoo, near Reykjvik awaiting a buyer. He was eventually shipped to Sealand of the Pacific in Victoria, British Columbia in late 1984.
Tlikum was uniquely known for being very large and having a dorsal collapased fin which happens about 1% in the wild and about 90% in captivity.
His early years at Sealand contributed hugely to the problems he would encounter for the rest of his life. As a young male he encountered constant attacks from two or more dominant females he shared a tank with where he had little to no room to escape due to his huge size v/s the limited size of the tank itself. This led to Tilikum being isolated nightly, only being let out to breed and perform. This undoubtedly contributed to his psychosis and subsequent behavioral problems.
‘On February 20th, 1991, Keltie Byrne a Sealand trainer and champion swimmer, slipped and fell into the Orca pool’. This is what was officially reported, however, I recommend watching the award-winning documentary ‘Blackfish.’ All three Orcas began to swim around her just as they would a seal in the wild, and Tilikum dove in and repeatedly submerged her until she tragically drowned. At this point, Sealand was forced to close, but reported that they did not know which Orca caused the woman’s death although witnesses reported that they saw Tilikum himself do this. The witnesses says they were sure due to his unique dorsal fin.
Tilikum was then sold to SeaWorld. SeaWorld was famously known for capturing whales in the wild and were told by the state of Washington to never come back and capture there anymore. They wanted Tilikum to breed him, however, breeding and animal that has a aggressive gene, is usually a ill advised practice.
Tragedy struck again on July 6th, 1999 when a Florida resident, Daniel Dukes managed to bypass security and sneak into the Orlando park after hours. His lifeless body was found draped across Tilikum’s back by security staff the following morning with parts of his body being bitten off, including his genitals.
On February 24th, 2010, Dawn Brancheau, one of SeaWorld’s most respected and experienced trainers, working on a training session with Tilikum, was grabbed by her arm and pulled into the pool where he brutally rammed and drowned her. This tragic incident came just nine weeks after Keto, another SeaWorld-owed Orca, drowned his trainer, Alexis Martinez at Loro Parque in the Canary Islands on December 24, 2009. These horrific incidents were first documented in David Kirby’s critically acclaimed book “Death at SeaWorld” in 2012 and then the following year in the award-winning documentary, Blackfish.
Today, and estimate of over 60 Orcas still remain in captivity around the world. We must ask ourselves, why did Tilikum or any of the other Orcas kill humans? Is it because they take steal them from their families at young ages and keep them captive in small spaces depriving them from their natural ways of existence? Is it because they force them to perform tricks and obey commands and if they don’t or make mistakes they are punished and withheld food?
Orcas are apex predators, at the TOP of the food chain. No other animals (except humans ) hunt Orcas. ‘Killer Whales’ feed on sea birds, squid, octopuses, sea marine mammal such as seals and dugongs and eat seals and sea lions right off the ice. The adults never leave their mother.
Orcas are not whales or fish in fact they are dolphins, and the largest dolphin to boot. Tilikum, in fact, grew to become the largest Orca held in captivity weighing in at 12, 000 pounds and measuring over 22ft long. In isolation, without his family. Now that’s Punishment.