Tilikum - orca

From WikiAnimal
DiedJanuary 6, 2017
Cause of deathBacterial lung infection
Captured atIceland
Capture ageApprox. 3 Years
Age at deathApprox. 36 Years
Capture dateNovember 9, 1983

Tilikum, nicknamed Tilly, was a captive male orca who spent most of his life at SeaWorld Orlando in Florida.

On November 9, 1983, three young orcas were captured off the coast of Iceland and taken to the Hafnarfjordur Aquarium. They underwent training and were put up for sale.

The following year, a 3-year-old male orca was bought by Sealand of the Pacific in Victoria, Canada. He was given the name Tilikum, derived from the Chinook Jargon term meaning "friends, relations, tribe, nation, common people."

Upon arriving at Sealand, Tilikum encountered two resident females named Haida II and Nootka IV, who held higher ranks and frequently displaced him.

In 1982, a year prior to Tilikum's arrival, Sealand had rescued a female orca named Miracle. Miracle drowned after getting entangled in nets that were cut. To prevent such incidents, Sealand started keeping the orcas in a nighttime enclosure called the "module," which was a metal pool measuring approximately 6 x 9.14m (20 x 30 feet). Former staff members, who appeared in the 2013 documentary Blackfish, shared that Tilikum often bore rake marks from the other orcas when they arrived in the mornings.

The orcas performed together for around 8 years until a single incident led to the permanent closure of Sealand.

On February 20, 1991, a part-time trainer named Keltie Byrne accidentally fell into the water while carrying a cooler alongside the pool. Despite her attempts to climb out, all three orcas swiftly swam over, pulling her away from the edge and repeatedly submerging her until she lost consciousness. Other trainers tried to distract the orcas and rescue Keltie, but their efforts were unsuccessful. Sadly, Keltie drowned, and it took emergency responders at least 2 hours to recover her body.

At the time of the incident, both Haida II and Nootka IV were pregnant with Tilikum's offspring. Only Haida II's calf, later named Kyuquot, survived.

In 1992, SeaWorld intervened and purchased all four orcas. Tilikum and Nootka IV were sent to the Orlando park, while Haida II and Kyuquot were sent to the San Antonio park. Tilikum quickly established himself as SeaWorld's most successful breeding male, fathering 21 calves.

On July 7, 1999, Tilikum was involved in another incident, but this time it was with a park guest, not a trainer. Daniel P. Dukes had visited the park the previous day and managed to hide in the park until after closing. He then climbed into Tilikum's tank and was discovered the next morning naked, covered in bruises, bite marks, and abrasions, and draped over the orca's back. The coroner's report determined that Dukes died from drowning and listed various injuries, including contusions, abrasions, and wounds sustained while he was still alive, as well as postmortem injuries such as a mild subarachnoid hemorrhage of the cerebellum and avulsion (forcible separation or detachment) of his genitals. Toxicology reports confirmed that Dukes was not intoxicated at the time of his death, although there were claims that he had a history of mental illness.

Tilikum had a history of lunging at control trainers when he became frustrated. Trainers were aware of his previous incidents involving Miss Byrne and Mr. Dukes. Despite the need for caution around Tilikum, he was involved in another fatal incident in 2010.

On February 24, 2010, after an afternoon show that resulted in aggression among several orcas and an injury to a female orca near the end of the show, senior trainer Dawn Brancheau was scheduled to perform a "Dine with Shamu" show with Tilikum.

After the show concluded, Dawn went to a slide-out area where she was seen, in a video recorded by a park guest, lying on her stomach for a "relationship session" with the male orca. Almost immediately after lying down, Tilikum grabbed Dawn by her left arm, pulling her into the pool and violently thrashing her body in the water while horrified park guests watched.

Other trainers attempted to distract Tilikum by throwing food and using nets, but their efforts were unsuccessful. Eventually, they managed to guide him to the medical pool where he released Dawn's body, and he could be calmed down. SeaWorld later claimed that Dawn was pulled in by her ponytail, suggesting that Tilikum may have mistaken it for a toy or that Dawn's hair had a scent of fish after she handled them. However, witnesses to Dawn's death stated that she was pulled in by her arm.

The autopsy report determined that Dawn's cause of death was drowning and traumatic injuries. Her injuries included complete scalp avulsion and complete avulsion of her left arm. She also suffered lacerations to her right ear, liver, and extremities, along with a fracture to the 7th cervical vertebra.

According to former SeaWorld trainers in the documentary Blackfish, after Dawn asked Tilikum for a "perimeter pec wave," he performed the behavior correctly but missed the whistle bridge. Dawn responded with a 10-second neutral response and did not reward him for his behavior before asking him for a different behavior. They also noted that Tilikum may have been aware that Dawn was running out of fish, signaling the end of the session, which could have made him less focused or motivated towards the end of the show.

On August 23, 2010, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fined SeaWorld $75,000 for three safety violations. One of the violations was classified as "willful" for exposing employees to struck-by and drowning hazards when interacting with killer orcas.

SeaWorld disputed OSHA's findings, stating that they were unfounded, and announced plans to contest the citation. OSHA recommended that trainers should not swim with the remaining orcas unless protected by physical barriers or alternative safety measures. These measures would provide the same or higher level of protection for the trainers.

SeaWorld's attempt to challenge the waterworks ban was unsuccessful. Tilikum was isolated and not allowed to perform in shows until March 2011. He was often only seen participating in splash sessions with his grandson, Trua, who was born in 2005 to a captive-born female named Takara. Tilikum was briefly removed from shows in December 2011 due to illness with bronchitis but recovered and resumed performances in the spring of 2012.

In April 2014, after a lengthy legal battle, a U.S. appeals court panel upheld OSHA's ruling that SeaWorld had violated safety duties by exposing trainers to recognized hazards when working with the orcas. The ruling required limitations on orca-trainer contact during shows, removing trainers from the water and mandating supervision and physical barriers in the form of removable metal bars. Although this decision angered loyal SeaWorld supporters, the company chose not to appeal to the United States Supreme Court.

In early March 2016, SeaWorld announced that Tilikum's health was deteriorating due to a bacterial lung infection. Updates on his health throughout the year were scarce, although he did appear in some shows.

On January 6, 2017, SeaWorld announced the death of the 36-year-old orca due to a bacterial lung infection.

See also