Obituary of an Orca

Orbital’s Sumi Bal pays respects to the recent passing of Tilikum.

Tilikum, the orca whale that inspired the documentary Blackfish, has died.

This is the whale that spent his entire life in captivity, being taken from his mother in the wild at just two years old. Used in every SeaWorld show for a mere five minutes to splash an unapologetic audience, the majority of his existence was spent alone, awaiting that five minutes. Now if that isn’t depressing, I don’t know what is.

This is the whale that bred the majority of orcas at SeaWorld enclosures. This involves involuntary masturbation, and insemination of the female whales. In other words, rape.

This is the whale that suffered extreme mental and physical trauma due to imprisonment with two physically dominant female whales. One might call this bullying. Everything about Tilikum’s ‘life’ either makes you want to cry, or physically trek down to SeaWorld and do a ‘Free Willy’ on them.

In months leading to his death, SeaWorld announced the end of breeding orcas, as well as an eventual end to Orca shows. The sad reality is this was not enough. The financial collapse of SeaWorld is what we all hope to see.

Tilikum died at just 36. SeaWorld will be sure to say this is the life expectancy of a male orca. In SeaWorld, yes, this is true. In fact 36 was pushing it, since many of their whales do not survive past 13. In the wild, however, their maximum life span is 60-100 years. Just a week earlier, a well-known Orca in the wild, Granny, died at 105.

There is not a single case of an orca attacking a human in the wild, yet numerous cases in captivity. This alone proves their injustice. The reality of the situation is so disturbing and absurd, it is painful to think of. We have boats. We even have submarines. The need to drag these creatures out of their environment and imprison them into ours is pure evil, and sadly is so very human. I’ve been to marches where I’ve overheard people say Tilikum changed their life. I’ll be the first to admit this seems a little far-fetched. Although in hindsight, I completely see it. Blackfish ignited a fire in many people’s hearts, and that really can change a life. If only it had been Tilikum’s.

‘My heart goes out to his mother and his pod, to a mother that was robbed of her child, to a pod that was robbed of such a strong member of their endangered culture. The crocodile tears from SeaWorld are bogus. They inflicted a lifetime of misery to a beautiful self-aware sentient being’, Captain Paul Watson, Founder of Sea Shepherd. Tilikum will always be remembered as the whale that started it all. His existence alone, if we can call it that, sparked such moral outrage in recent years that can only grow stronger. If there is a Heaven, I hope it is one with an ocean far from human interception. The thought of Tilikum breaching free warms my heart.

Freedom at last. Rest in peace.