Tilikum, the orca torn from his family near Iceland when he was just two years old, died yesterday at SeaWorld Orlando.
He suffered in captivity for more than 33 years, having food withheld when he did not “perform” correctly. His tank mates scraped his sides with their teeth because they, too, were hungry.
Like all orcas in captivity, Tilikum had a collapsed dorsal fin — a sign, for decades, that he was in distress. His sperm was used to create more orcas in captivity.
Tilikum was the star of the 2013 documentary, “Blackfish,” which showed the world the horror of his living conditions. SeaWorld’s profits and stock price tanked, and the company subsequently said it would stop its “Shamu” shows and stop breeding orcas in captivity.
Hopefully, the lessons from his tragic life will save orcas from future suffering.
Unfortunately, we are not there yet.
Tokitae, popularly known as Lolita, is an orca captured with four family members near Whidbey Island in 1970. She’s the only one surviving.
A judge ruled earlier this year that she will remain at the Miami Seaquarium, despite expert reports that the dolphins with whom Tokitae shares a small tank have scraped their teeth on her skin more than 50 times in one year. She often needs antibiotics and painkillers.
U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro decided that did not constitute “grave harm.”
And so Tokitae is not coming home, despite a detailed and feasible plan that’s in place whenever the humans with power over her life choose to free her.
Here’s Judge Ungaro’s email (I think): firstname.lastname@example.org
And email for the Spain-based CEO of Palace Entertainment, which owns the Miami Seaquarium: email@example.com
Dear Mr. Eiroa,
Tilikum’s death this week was another reminder of the graveness of Tokitae/Lolita’s incarceration in Miami.
Although Judge Ungaro decided that dolphins scraping Tokitae’s sides more than 50 times in one year did not constitute grave harm, you have the power to show compassion and send her home.
As you know, there’s a viable and detailed plan for doing just that. Just say the word, and the money will come — from Seattle and elsewhere — to free her.
Please do the right thing before it’s too late.
Photos from Blackfish