Keep a 12,000 pound killer whale in isolation for an extended period of time and it’s no surprise when it drags a trainer into the water to ‘play’. Tilikum the killer whale, a past resident of Victoria’s now defunct Sealand of the Pacific tourist trap and now residing at Seaworld Orlando, is responsible for the death of Dawn Brancheau, who had to be manually extricated from the jaws of the mammal by Seaworld staff. Tilikum reportedly grabbed Ms. Brancheau by the ponytail and dragged her into the pool, repeatedly pulling her underwater until she drowned. The killer whale would not release her so staff coaxed the animal into a holding tank which was drained of water and she was removed from it’s mouth by prying its jaws apart.
This isn’t the first human tragedy connected with Tilikum. He was responsible for the death of a trainer at Sealand of the Pacific in February 1991 when he dragged her into the water and played with her until she drowned. It took Sealand staff over two hours to retrieve her body from the pool.
Tilikum was also responsible for the death of a man in July 1999 at Seaworld when his naked body was found draped across it’s back when staff began their early morning shift. He had apparently spent the night in Seaworld and entered the pool to play with the killer whale. In retrospect, not a terribly smart move on his part. Tilikum drowned him and tossed his body around the pool until it was retrieved by staff.
Which leads to the obvious question…why keep whales in captivity at all? Why put an intelligent, majestic animal like a killer whale in a small pool and force it to entertain tourists by doing unnatural flips and acrobatic tricks for fish treats? Because it makes money. Period.
Tilikum had been kept in solitary isolation and used only for breeding purposes due to his violent past. Is it any wonder he wanted to play? Whales don’t understand that humans can’t breath underwater and could easily bite a human in half but Tilikum was bored and frustrated with spending it’s days in a small tank with little or no interaction with its own species or human beings. Anyone would go mad under those circumstances.
It’s time to shut down these freak shows and let the present inhabitants live out their lives with dignity and in peace. Seaworld Orlando will close the doors for a few days but will reopen and continue displaying these poor creatures until the next death. And on it will go until we finally wise-up and force them to close forever. And how can we possibly force them to close? It’s easy. We just don’t go anymore.