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Sea World’s Turning Tide

Chayse Schneider

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Sea World.

Drooping fins, violent behavior, and even murder, if you take a step back from all the glamour and showcased happiness you will realize just how Sea World actually treats their animals. Sea world has been a place of happiness and joy for many years. They have multiple locations such as San Diego, California, San Antonio, Texas, Orlando, and Florida. It first opened 53 years ago on March 21st, 1964. They specialize in orca, dolphin, and sea lion shows as well as other enjoyable entertainment. Sea world was home to one of the largest killer and famous wales in captivity, Tilikum (Tilly). He weighed 12,500 pounds and was over 22 feet in length.

Tilikum was captured in Iceland at Hafnarfjorour, close to Reykjavik, in 1983. He was two years old. In Hafnarfjorour Tilikum was held in a 100-foot by 50-foot cement pool that was only 35 feet deep until his transfer to Sealand in Victoria, British Columbia. Sealand had started training the wale by withholding food from him. During his time at Sealand he endured continuous, and extremely painful attacks from two dominant females that he lived with at the time. Every hour Tilikum would perform shows, 8 times a day, every day. He was constantly stressed from the shows, so stressed that he got stomach ulcers. When Sealand closed for the night Tilikum and the two other orcas were forced into a tiny metal-sided tank for over 14 hours until the park opened the next day. February 21st, 1991 was the day that Tilikums’ harsh side came to surface. Trainer Keltie Byrne fell into the orcas tank. Tilikum had gotten a hold of her and dragged her to the bottom of the pool where he and the two other wales repeatedly threw her around until she drowned. It took Sealand two hours after the incident before they retrieved her body from the pool. When Keltie died Sealand closed its doors for good and Tilikum was for sale.

SeaWorld bought Tilikum for his semen. His genes are in 54 percent of SeaWorld’s orcas today. “Tilikum was kept in a tank that contained 0.0001 percent the amount of water that he would have travelled in a single day if he was in the ocean.” Stress and exhaustion had drove Tilikums repetitive, harsh, and abnormal behavior out into the open. He would chew on metal gates as well as the sides of his concrete tank. Tilikum grew aggressive to people which ended with a result of two more deaths.

“July 6th 1999 Daniel P. Dukes managed to sneak undetected into SeaWorld, Orlando.” Daniel had decided to go skinny dipping into Tilikums tank while the 12,500 pound whale was asleep. Daniel was killed the same way that Keltie Byrnes had been. Tilikum had gotten ahold of Daniel and repeatedly thrashed him around until he died. “He then continued to play with the body until he was found parading with Daniels lifeless body on his back in the morning.” Tilikum had been reported as even biting off Daniels genitals.

Daniel P. Dukes was not the last of Tilikums victims. On February 24th 2010 Dawn Brancheau was murdered at the end of one of Tilikums shows. Dawn had been a trainer for 15 years. She had an undying love for animals and was passion driven to work with orcas. She became the new poster girl for SeaWorld. On the dreadful day of Dawns death she had just finished a show with Tilikum. Witnesses reported that she was “lying on the slide-out alongside Tilikum, her face resting atop his, when Tilikum grabbed her ponytail and dragged her into the water.” Tilikum would not release Dawns body while employees had tried to distract him by throwing food and nets towards him. When they had finally been able to lead Tilikum into a small medical pool he finally released her unconscious body. “Dawn’s spinal cord had been severed, she obtained blunt-force trauma, and she sustained fractures to her jaw, ribs, and a cervical vertebra. Her scalp had been completely torn off as well as her left arm.”

After the incident with Dawn Brancheau Tilikum was held in a small enclosure. He had limited swimming space and communication with the other whales. “There were many reports that he had been floating lifelessly for hours at a time in his enclosure.” A year had past and SeaWorld brought Tilikum out to preform shows again. What SeaWorld did to Tilikum has happened too many of their other orcas. If they showed signs of aggressive behavior they were forced into a smaller enclosure. Many other trainers at SeaWorld have had rough behavior with the other orcas. “There has been records containing 600 pages of incidents of being bit, rammed, lunged at, pulled, and pinned as well as a near-death encounter with a trainer named Ken Peters.”

Free orcas have never shown aggression to any human. It has only been seen in orcas who are held in captivity. If you take a look at Tilikums dorsal fin you will notice that it is drooped over to one side. “Observing orcas in the wild there has never been a drooping dorsal fin, only in captive male orcas is it a reoccurring thing.” Collapsed dorsal fins are in fact caused by unnatural environments of orcas who have barely or never seen the wild. It is believed to be linked to depression as well. SeaWorld has claimed that it is only natural for whale’s fins to collapse, even in the wild. This has been proven to be untrue.

It has been proven that orcas or not meant to be kept in captivity. I hope that we are able to work towards all orca shows and breeding being stopped at some point. A good way to help stop this is to stop going to places like SeaWorld. Paying to go see these shows is contributing to the orcas murder and torture.

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Sea World’s Turning Tide