Tilikum, The Orca Who Couldn't Be Free

6th January, 2017.

Tilikum is pronounced dead.

As I saw the emails emerge in my inbox and my twitter feed fill with tweets using #Tilikum my heart sank. Tilikum had been suffering from an infection for a while now and I know I was in two minds about it. In one, I hoped he would get better and not be in pain any more but in the other, I hoped his misery would end - not just the misery of an illness but the misery of a life in a tank. Well, finally after years of slavery (33 years in captivity) Tilikum has died. No more performing for food, no more living in a tiny tank, no more loneliness, boredom or frustration.

To some of you, I realise you might think I sound too sentimental about an animal I have never met or seen but Tilikum's story had such a huge effect on me and changed the direction of my life completely. I watched the documentary Blackfish in 2014 and was moved to my very core, Tilikum's story is one of great sadness and horror and there really is no good side to anything that has happened to him. Once I had finished the film I remember I was feeling depressed and huge amounts of anger. Since then, I made every effort I could to spread the message about Tilikum's story and show that the captivity of orca's is not acceptable, Tilikum's story kicked me into action. 

So this news has hit me hard, I feel sad to think that even in his last few months was he wasn't able to retire in a better environment or be away from the public eye. Tilikum spent 33 years of his life in captivity, the majority of that at SeaWorld. Can you imagine that many years in the same tiny place with no stimulants, no relatives, no friends, no choice, no ocean - just swimming around in circles. Tilikum had a life of misery when he should have been king of the ocean, free to do what he wants when he wants. Instead his life of captivity couldn't be more opposite.

SeaWorld WILL close its tanks and retire it's orca's, it is just a matter of time. Last year there were some big announcements by SeaWorld, the orca breeding ban, the end of the orca shows at San Diago and not to mention the massive drops in their tickets sales and stocks and shares. The world is changing - slowly but it is changing. 

A few days ago, this picture popped up on my Facebook memory feed from 2015, we all hoped this for Tilikum but now we must work harder than ever to make this happen for ALL remaining imprisoned cetaceans. 

I will never stop spreading the message that orca captivity is wrong and nor will everyone else who has spoken up. We MUST keep going no matter how hard it seems. Tilikum's story has touched so many people, him and everything he suffered will never be forgotten. 

Tilikum, the orca who couldn't be free is finally at peace.

What can you do to help? Watch Blackfish, tell your friends and family to watch it, educate yourself on what life is like for cetaceans in captivity, spread these messages to whoever you can. Education is the key. 

Please NEVER buy a ticket, don't go to SeaWorld or any other marine park with orca's, beluga's or dolphins. They 'live' a life of misery for entertainment - it's not right. 


Links - 

Parts 1, 2 & 3 of my interview with Blackfish cast member and SeaWorld ex-trainer, Dr Jeffrey Ventre.

Parts 1, 2 & 3 of my interview with orca expert and researcher & Blackfish cast member - Howard Garrett

The Whale Sanctuary Project