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30 Years and Three Deaths: Tilikums Tragic Story

Meet Tilikum, the largest orca in captivity, weighing 12,500 pounds and
measuring over 22 feet in length.
Tilikum was captured near Iceland in November of 1983, 30 years ago. At
only 2 years old, when he was approximately 13 feet long, he was torn away
from his family and ocean home.
After his capture, he was kept in a cement holding tank for close to a year at
a marine zoo, near Reykjavk, Iceland, as he awaited transfer to another
marine park. Held captive against his will, all he could do was swim in small
circles and float aimlessly at the surface of the water, far away from the
expansive ocean in which he had swum a hundred miles a day alongside his
family members. Finally, he was transferred to the rundown Sealand of the
Pacific in British Columbia, Canada, and forced to call his barren 100-foot-by50-foot pooljust 35 feet deephis sad new home.
Food was withheld from him as a training technique, and he regularly
endured painful attacks by two dominant female orcas, Haida and Nootka.
He was forced to perform every hour on the hour, eight times a day, seven
days a week. The constant stress and exhaustion gave him stomach ulcers.
When the park closed its doors at the end of each day, the three
incompatible orcas were crammed into a tiny round metal-sided module for
more than 14 hours until the park reopened the next morning.

On February 21, 1991, Sealand trainer Keltie Byrne fell into the pool
containing all three orcas. She was pulled to the bottom of the enclosure by
Tilikum, tossed around among the three orcas, and ultimately drowned. It
took Sealand employees two hours to recover her body from the orcas. She
was the first of three people to have been killed because of Tilikums stress,
frustration, and confinement.
Shortly after the death of Keltie, Sealand closed its doors for good and put
Tilikum up for sale as though he were nothing more than a commodity.
When SeaWorld heard that a 12,000-lb. bull, the largest orca in captivity, was
on the market, it quickly purchased him.
. Over the course of 21 years at SeaWorld, where he is confined to a tank containing
0.0001 percent of the quantity of water that he would traverse in a single day in
nature, Tilikum has been involved in multiple incidents of aggression. The stress of
captivity drives Tilikum to exhibit abnormal repetitive behavior, including chewing
on metal gates and the concrete sides of his tankso much so that the most of his
teeth are completely worn down.

The stress of captivity also causes Tilikum to exhibit aggression toward

humans, which has cost two more livesthose of Daniel P. Dukes in 1999
and Dawn Brancheau in 2010. The most recent death happened whenTilikum
scalped and dismembered Dawn, his trainer, as well as breaking bones
throughout her body before drowning her.
Following Dawns tragic death, Tilikum was kept in a tiny enclosure that
limited his ability to swim, communicate with other orcas, and interact with
humans even further. He was reported to have been floating listlessly in the
water for hours at a time, a behavior never seen in wild orcas.

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