Tillikum is the bull Orca Killer Whale captured in 1983 that resides at SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida. Tillikum is now responsible for three deaths.
February 24, 2010 Tillikum grabbed trainer 40 year old Dawn Brancheau by her pony tail, while performing in front of a full audience, pulling her underwater and thrashing about the pool for 40 minutes before trainers raised the floor of one pool and released her. An autopsy revealed Dawn died from drowning and traumatic injuries.
In 1991 Tillikum is one of three whales involved in the death of another trainer in 1991 in the now defunct Sea World of the Pacific. A female trainer was pulled in the tank from the edge of the pool.
July 6, 1999, a 27 year old male intruder, stayed over night in SeaWorld and somehow got in the pool with Tillikum. The man was found dead, floating in the tank with Tillikum in the morning. It was determined that Tillikum had bitten the man before or after death. The man also died from drowning.
This last account is sad because the animal is being blamed for this death and clearly it is through no fault of the animal that a person entered his domain tank.
OSHA has fined SeaWorld $75,000 for three safety regulations in regards to specifically Tillikum. See link below for complete statement from OSHA. The three violations include: #1 Exposing its employees to struck-by and drowning hazards when interacting with killer whales. #2. Exposing employees to a fall hazard by failing to install a stairway railing system on the front side, left bridge of the “Believe” stage in Shamu Stadium. OSHA issues a serious citation when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known. #3. Failing to equip outdoor electrical receptacles in Shamu Stadium with weatherproof coverings.
Tillikum has sired many calves at SeaWorld.
There are a total of 41 Orcas, Killer Whales in facilities in North and South American as of June 2010.
Should this whale be returned to the ocean? Should this whale be put down? There is controversy about this animal that was transferred from his natural home, performed under unusual stress, medicated and kept in tanks preventing him from living a normal life.
Yes he sired many calves and the investment by SeaWorld I am sure is expensive, but doesn’t it come down to what are we doing this all for? Money? Entertainment?
There are some that say if Tillikum is released, he will not survive. Should we be taking these animals in the first place and using them for profit? Now the animal is being blamed for killing people as a “killer whale”.
The trainers know full and well what the risks are when they become trainers. Each know the possibility that this could happen and they continue to train and take the risks. It is the opportunity to work with the animals that the trainers want in the first place.
Most of us have been to some kind of Aquarium and seen outdoor shows like the one in SeaWorld. In fact I have been to SeaWorld several times. I would never allow my kid to get kissed by a killer whale, but my sister-in-law was brave and got kissed by one in Marineland in Canada several years ago. The thought of an animal this big is just too frightening for me to believe that people allow their kids to be kissed by these animals. Why is this even allowed by the park, if they know the dangers?
My condolences do go out to the family of the trainer, Dawn Brancheau. Please remember that Dawn knew what she was doing and loved her job. I don’t even think she would want anything done to Tillikum. Even if an animal of this size was playing, it could result in death. Actually I do believe the responsibility lies with SeaWorld for allowing these dangerous animals to get so close to the trainers, as they are the ones benefiting through profit from their performances.
Does SeaWorld offer insurance and death benefits in the event of the death of trainers to their employees? Do they have them sign releases?