The Killer Whale Kills Again
This week, a sea life centre in Florida has seen tragedy as one of its employees was killed by the whale she cared for. Our London escorts are no longer quite as keen to visit the aquarium, terrified by the power of this great mammal.
Tilikum is the largest orca held in captivity; since his capture in 1983, he has been kept in large enclosures, but these still don’t allow the freedom necessary for killer whales. In Chinook, the whale’s name means ‘friend’, which is ironic in light of recent events.
The whale weighs 12,300 pounds and is 22.5 feet long. So immense is his size that handlers are unable to swim with his like they do with other orcas in captivity – the danger of being crushed or drowned is too great.
Back in 1991, there was an incident involving Tilikum when he was kept in British Columbia in Canada. Siring 13 calves, he has now become the most successful killer whale to breed in captivity. He shared a tank with two female killer whales, one of whom was carrying his first calf. A 20 year old student was training the orcas part time, and after a show one day she slipped and fell into the tank. The 3 whales dragged her down and she was submerged until she drowned. Shortly after the tragedy, the aquarium closed down and sold Tilikum to Seaworld in Orlando.
In 1999, the dead body of a 27 year old male was found floating in the killer whale’s pool, but it is unclear what happened. It was established that the man broke into Seaworld after hours and found his way to the pool; Tilikum’s bite marks were on the body, but this may have happened after the man had drowned.
This week, 40 year old orca trainer Dawn Brancheau was dragged into the water by Tilikum and subsequently drowned to death. This time there were witnesses, and it was clearly the killer whale who killed the woman.
Despite three people being dead, Tilikum is unlikely to be released into the wild. He was only 2 years old when captured and may not have adequate hunting skills to survive – for most of his life he has been dependent on humans to feed him. This tragedy has reopened the debate of whether or not it is ethical to keep such large mammals in captivity; some creatures were intended for the wild.