Tilikum's Story

Tilikum’s Story

Tilikum, star of the shocking documentary ‘Black Fish’ has died after 33 years in captivity. There has been huge controversy since the documentary, revealing the nasty truth behind Orcas taken from the wild and used for entertainment. The industry built on the suffering of animals; denying them freedom, family and a natural habitat, has caused premature death for a number of Orcas for various reasons. The death of Tilly, caused by bacterial pneumonia, is further proof of just how harmful captivity is for these highly intelligent creatures.


‘SeaWorld’, featured in ‘Black Fish’ are the owners of all but one of the Orcas held in the US. The company take the young animals away from their parents and confines them to tiny, concrete tanks in amusement parks all over America. The whales, often housed in isolation or unnatural pairings, are regularly drugged to control stress and aggressive behaviour and are unable to swim the same lengths as they would while in the wild. Orcas can swim up to 100 miles everyday, however at SeaWorld they are able only to swim in relentless circles. They are subjected to pain as they bite one another and the metal bars of their cages, while waiting to preform tricks t the public. Tilly, much like other captive male Orcas had a collapsed dorsal fin, a sign of an unwell, undernourished and unhappy Orca.

In the wild Orcas work together to find food and live in ‘pods’, often with their mother for their whole life, using unique dialogues, which evidence a culture that is unheard of within any other species other than humans. Tilly would have possibly lived up to 60 or 70 years old, with the average male Orca living for 50 years, however 38 Orcas have died at SeaWorld at an average age of 13. They are often portrayed at being ‘Killer Whales’, as there have been 3 deaths at the amusement park since 1991, one of which was Tilly herself, and this is not including all the injuries sustained.  However in the wild, there has only ever been one reported case of an Orca harming a human.


Tilikum’s story is just one of many. There are still Orcas in captivity today even though there is strong evidence to support its horribly negative consequences. However, there are ways to support the work of campaigners in changing the outcome for these animals. One of which is Captive Animals Protection Society (CAPS) https://www.captiveanimals.org/support-us/support-our-campaigns. The Society looks to investigate animal welfare concerns surrounding specific establishments and industries, including zoos, circuses and the exotic pet trade. They look to provide evidence to government agencies, the media and public in order to bring forward positive change. After the death of Tilikum, CAPS began the campaign ‘Don’t let Tilikum’s death be in vain’ to help other whales suffering in captivity focusing on three beluga whales: Jun Jun, Little White and Little Grey being held captive in the Shanghai SEA LIFE Centre. SEA LIFE is the largest aquarium brand in the world and is run by Merlin Entertainments, a British company. There are currently 47 sites operating under the SEA LIFE brand globally. Although SEA LIFE claims that they believe “it is wrong to keep whales and dolphins in captivity. No matter how spacious, no captive facility can ever provide such far-ranging, highly social and highly intelligent animals with the stimulation they need for a good quality of life.”

However, three times a day, in the SEA LIFE Centre in Shanghai, China, three beluga whales are forced to perform circus-style tricks to huge audiences. Bellow you can sign a petition to help push for their release back into the wild and help ensure they do not suffer for as long as Tilikum did.



All images: Google images.