Tillikum the Whale: Tillikum is responsible for two deaths and possibly a third. One was a drifter that supposedly stayed after hours and swam with Tillikum without anyone knowing. They found him dead, draped over Tillikum’s body the next morning and blamed his death on hypothermia. The 2nd death was a head trainer at Sea World named Dawn. She was killed by Tillikum and he wouldn’t let he body go. Sea World blamed it on her ponytail being too long. The 3rd death that he might have been responsible for was a trainer at his original place of residence, Sealand. It was at Sealand that his was abused and withheld food if he did not get a trick they were trying to get him to do correctly. Then at night, they would lock him up in a small dark tank with two other whales all night and during the night the other two whales (female) were trying to show their social rank and would abuse him too.
They won’t release him, even though he has shown that he is not safe with humans, because his sperm is too valuable. Tillikum has been the father of 21 calves while in captivity and is the grandfather to even more. Tillikum is the largest orca currently alive in captivity and his dorsal fin is drooping because lack of use (the current in the ocean keeps non captive whales fins from drooping). Since the death of the head trainer at Seaworld, Tillikum has been by himself in a tank with hardly any interaction with humans or other whales.
Former Seaworld Trainers: There are several former Sea World Trainers who are interviewed for this film. These are the people who loved on these poor whales and didn’t want to leave because they were afraid of who would take care of them or what would happen to them if they left them in someone else’s care. They told horror stories (in the film and in the special features section) of the things that would go on at the parks. These people risk their lives every day (before OSHA came along) to be in the water training the whales and they grew to love them.
Taking the young: The Sea World trainers talked about how several young calves were taken from their mother and shipped to another park, they were said to be disrupting the show and that is why they were moved, but it was really because the other location needed a baby whale. The trainers talked about how they witnessed the mothers grieving for their children. How can someone just take a child away from their mother? The calfs have a different language than the others and now have to acclimate themselves in a new environment and social structure.
Violence amongst whales: These animals can’t get away from each other when they fight or get agitated. These whales are huge and there are only so many gallons in their tanks that they can go to for refuge. Think about it, when you and your sibling were fighting, chances are you had your own room, or if you didn’t you were told to get in separate parts of the house so you wouldn’t kill each other (or was that just me and my sister?!). These animals do not have that option; they are stuck with each other.
Or say that you were thrown in jail with people from other countries and everyone was fighting for some sort of hierarchy in the cell, none of you speak the same language so you attack each other. That is what these animals are doing. They are grating each other and drawing blood. Poor Tillikum is huge and can’t get away. I imagine him to be like a big kid in elementary school that has been bullied for so many years and he is fed up. When he killed those people it might have started out as fun, but then it turned excited. He was the person with the power then. (BTW, I do not know the inside of this animals head, obviously. I am just trying to imagine why he would do that). Plus with his background, he was bound to snap at some point (or multiple points in his case). Plus, I don’t know that he realizes he is so big. Dogs get on humans on the time and accidentally hurt them, without trying to. Or maybe when he wouldn’t let her body go (or the random guy they found one morning) and was parading it, maybe he was just holding on to his prize. Other animals hold on to their prize and parade it around. You know?
Here are a few other animals that I found when I researched the subject further:
Corky the Whale: When I was researching more on the subject, I found a bit about a whale named Corky at Sea World. She is one of the whales that has been in captivity the longest (40+ years) and was taken from her natural habitat (opposed to being born in captivity). I watched a piece on YouTube (see above) that originally aired on ABC Nightline that broke my heart and I will never again be able to get it out of my head. They were talking about how Corky was taken as a baby from the wild and held in captivity. They knew which set of whales was her pod and they taped them talking. At the end of the 12 minute video, they played the recording for the whales and ALL the animals responded. At one point poor Corky was SHAKING and trembling and she knew those were her people and she knew she was trapped there. It’s like someone who has been taken for human trafficking 40 years ago and was played her families voices. Do you think they would be a bit upset? I think so! Is that right? Absolutely not. When someone (or something in this case) is literally so upset that they start to shake and tremble, that is cruelty and whoever is doing it to them should be ashamed of themselves.
Lolita the Whale: Lolita is a captive whale at the Miami Seaquarium that was taken over 40 years ago. She has lived in a substandard pin by herself for years ever since her compannion Hugo died by bashing his head against the concrete wall repeatedly. 60x80 feet 20 feet deep is the size of her pin and is the smallest tank in the USA that holds a captive whale and is actually an Illegal size tank based on the Animal Welfare Act. She has been pregnant many times, but none of her children have survived.
Setting them free in the wild: I understand that they can’t just be set free into the wild, because that would be cruel as well. They do suggest natural habitats where they can block of a section of a cove for them to stay. They can come and go as they please, without doing tricks
I am at a loss as to what to do. Please watch the documentary on Netflix or purchase it from Amazon. Share it with you friends; we have to do SOMETHING for these whales. I admit, when I went to Seaworld a few years ago, I watched the whale show and I was amazed. I really was! As an adult it was fascinating, I can only imagine seeing it from a child’s perspective. I get it, I really do. However, these animals are not being given the respect that they deserve. They should be with their families and not held in fish tanks for human entertainment.
BTW, I am not an animal rights activist. I do however love animals and do not think they should be treated like this. Animals, children and old people need to be stood up for, because it’s hard (or impossible in the whales case) for them to stand up for themselves.
p.s. Be sure to watch the directors commentary in the special features section on the DVD!