On Friday, January 6th, 2017, “Tilikum”, a male orca kept in captivity by SeaWorld, passed away. Over the years, he had been involved in three incidents that claimed human lives.
The cause of his death has not been established yet. Tilikum had been taken from the wild in Icelandic waters in 1983 and ever since – for more than 33 years – had been condemned to circle through monotonous concrete tanks, ultimately at SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida. The fate of this male orca was the central theme of the award-winning documentary BLACKFISH, which sparked criticism internationally. Subsequently SeaWorld saw declining numbers of visitors and commercial losses.
In March 2016, SeaWorld announced to discontinue captive breeding of orcas and to phase out keeping orcas in captivity.
Nicolas Entrup, founder of Shifting Values, who had the documentary broadcasted in Austria and has been criticising marine mammal captivity, commented on Tilikum’s passing: “Tilikum’s death marks the end of an orca’s sad fate, which, however, also heralded the end of a practice which is behind the times. I hope that SeaWorld and others will actively engage in assessing programmes to prepare the remaining captive orcas for a life in the wild.”