Tillikum is known to most as the 29yr old (that’s right not 32yr old) 23 foot long, 12,000lb orca who killed his trainer, Dawn Brancheau during a Dine With Shamu session. To others he is known as a wild orca, who has been confined in a "tiny" tank and is performing for his dinner. To me however, he is an animal who has opened my eyes and introduced me to the world or orcas. As a person, I have been on both sides of the argument, I have said "no more captures" and "free the dolphins", but I suddenly realized by the age of 12, keeping animals in a place where other generations can be exposed to their beauty and intelligence and connect with them in a way that cant be done in the wild, is perfectly fine plus so much can be learned from them and also used to help their wild counterparts who are currently on the endangered list. I'm what's called a neutral, I believe in keeping cetacean in captivity, but as long as their well cared for, being kept stimulated and have enough space to swim. SeaWorld does it's best to care for animals both captive and rescue, rehabilitate and release wild animals. As in the case of Tillikum, He was born in the wild, Captured by the age of 2 with another orca named Samoa and brought to SeaLand of the Pacific which the females were so overpowering over him, he mostly hung out in a tank that was 25' x 30'. Which was small for him to move around in the females had toys and didn’t allow him to play with them. Sadly overnight he and the two females were kept in the smaller tank in order to keep them from "escaping" since the main pool was held by a net only.
So imagine place three people who hated each other in a tiny bathroom for hours at a time. Nootka was from what it seems the dominant female at the park. She one many occasions pulled her trainers into the water, and bit them. One trainer was pulled in by her while he was trying to retrieve something from her mouth. In 1991, Keyltie Byrne who was a part time trainer in SeaLand supposedly slipped and fell into the pool with the whales was dragged our the pool and repeatedly submerged until she drowned. Seaworld decided to buy the whales off since SeaLand ended up closing. They took Tillikum through an emergency permit since he was now confined to the tiny tank since the girls were pregnant and increasingly aggressive with him the tank in SeaLand is so small his chin and flukes scraped a metal rod in the tank.. Seaworld in fact saved Tillikum. Their spacious pools and other orcas seemed to be ideal for an orca in need. But people don’t see it that way. Sure, Tillikum has I’m sure worked for his fish, but Tillikum needs the exercise and stimulation to keep his mind from being bored. Plus the interaction with both people and other orcas is also good for social reasons. At the beginning of Tillikum's arrival trainers tried to decided to expose him to humans in water. But the head trainers decided against that. I personally believe that that was a mistake, maybe this might have came out entirely differently..
As for the 1999 incident of Daniel Dukes. He died due to hyperthermia, not by being attacked. Tillikum played with his body after death- as the coroner said “post mortem wounds“. The issue is and I’m not blaming her at all. Dawn let her guard down around him, and he grabbed her hair and pulled her under. I’m assuming her hair got stuck in his teeth, which could be the reason for the thrashing. I know that there was a spotter for the trainers during any interaction with Tillikum, but question that needs to be asked is “where were they? And why didn’t they call her attention as she laid on the shelf“? In every effect, SeaWorld did loosen some rules on Tillikum, but in every aspect- rules were put in place for a reason. Animals are curious, intelligent and always thinking. No one can say for sure what’s gone though his mind before it happened. But one thing is for sure the media turned him into a murderer and without knowing the facts.
No matter what PETA, Orca Network, Ric O' Barry, Naomi Rose etc.. say, Tillikum is going to live the rest of his life in SeaWorld. He's an old orca and unlike Keiko- their not going to retire him to a seapen. Keiko‘s “release” was a fluke. For the sake of people that still deny it was wrong, they like to think of his trek alone for those few months as a successful release. Even Cousteau said “it was a mistake”. People complain about captivity but so much has been learned from it. 30+ Years have passed and things have changed, no longer are the orca pools the size of Lolita’s tank. Their more natural and spacious, the trainers do their best to stimulate the orcas. There isn’t anymore starve training- positive reinforcement is the correct training these days. That means even if the animals are full, they willingly interact with the trainers.. Life has changed and in spite of this incident, OSHA is over exaggerating- The trainers should be retrained on handling Tillikum, not go to the extreme for "safe mind" and install barriers and other things not needed. Personally, the media blew this thing out of the water for more ratings, But find out more before you judge this animal. Sure he has a bad rap, but don’t let the media tarnish your thoughts as they don’t really know the facts. I have spent many a time around this animal as a visitor, hours by and days by the tank and shows, just observing him and the others. I also spent hours at a time researching about the 1991 and 1999 incident, even then SeaLand had full blame because they starved the orcas to perform and they also never really trained them to handle people in water.
As for Tilly, He is sometimes alone but usually around another orca. At the time Taima was his constant companion, but sadly she passed due to birthing complications. Tillikum has been in the pools accompanied by the younger calves. I know and can clearly see the gates are open to let him be around the others but he chooses to be alone, possibly its something he’s comforted by like in SeaLand. Like people that like to be alone possibly he likes it too. He got Taima and Katina & Takara pregnant naturally, not through AI as PETA claimed, because during the time these girls found to be pregnant Tillikum was housed with them for a period of time and even performed in shows along side them. Even pregnant Taima spent time with him after show had gotten pregnant. Don’t be so eager to judge this animal, get the facts before you jump to conclusions. I leave you with this question to ponder. From 1991-2010 Tillikum has had countless close interactions and so many opportunities to grab/hurt his trainers, don’t you think if he was annoyed, stressed, overworked etc, don’t you think he would have done this a lot sooner?.