Animal lovers are in mourning at the death of serial killer whale Tilikum, SeaWorld’s most valuable stud orca who murdered three people.
Tilikum died this mourning at 36 surrounded by trainers and care givers. The cause of death is unknown, but the whale was suffering from a “persistent and complicated bacterial lung infection,” according to SeaWorld.
What is less publicized about the killer whale is the fact that he has killed enough people to label him a serial killer. The first kill was a part time trainer who accidentally slipped and fell into the whale’s tank when Tilikum was in captivity in Canada. The second was a drifter who broke into Orlando SeaWorld and jumped in the tank.
The most high profile was the third death when he killed his trainer Dawn Brancheau by pulling her into his tank by her pony tail and drowning her in front of aghast SeaWorld tourists. Despite having killed three people, SeaWorld continued doing shows with Tilikum after only a year’s break.
SeaWorld cynically kept Tilikum around because he was a stud and his sperm was worth millions. Despite his dangerous nature, trainers had to collect the sperm from the whale by hand.
Six ton Tilikum was the largest killer whale in captivity and was one of the few orcas still in captivity who was captured directly from the wild (in Tilikum’s case, he was captured off the coast of Iceland).
The tragic tale of Tilikum inspired the 2013 film Blackfish. The widely watched documentary argued that killer whales do not belong in captivity and that the apex predators especially should not be interacting closely with humans.
Public outcry over the film prompted SeaWorld to announce they will phase out Killer Whale shows by 2017.
Despite Tilikum’s checkered past, he is being mourned as a martyr for animal rights with some in the media labelling the whale’s killing of Brancheau an “unintentional drowning.”
— PETA (@peta) January 6, 2017