Have you ever gotten into an argument with your family and had to leave the house for a couple of minutes just to get some fresh air and clear your head? Imagine your house is gutted and there are no rooms for you to go be in private. Imagine that you cannot leave your house in that moment. Imagine that for your entire life, you cannot leave your house. While we are imagining this, poor orca whales at SeaWorld, Tilikum being one of the most famous of these mammals, are living this as a reality.
With recent buzz over the documentary 'Blackfish', it has come to the attention of the public that orca whales do not belong in captivity. These gigantic, social mammals deserve to live a life in their natural habitat and have every right to live as long as they would in the wild (which is around 80 years). In captivity, they live to be from 30-35, which is a staggering difference. Because these animals have no way to defend themselves, and have no voice, they are not given a choice as to how they want to spend the rest of their lives. Their entire lives are decided upon the SeaWorld parks and by denying them their natural born freedom in the wild for the entertainment of paying people is simply sickening, unethical, and immoral.
Tilikum was plucked from the waters in Iceland at the age of 2-years-old in 1983 and has been in captivity ever since. A member from the team who did so recalls baby Tilikum and his pod communicating back and forth while they had the nets up, and that knowing he was doing something wrong, he began to cry. Brain scans have been done on orcas and it has been shown that the part of the brain that deals with emotions is significantly expanded and larger in an orca whale than in humans. This shows that orca whales lead an emotional lifespan, and that their sense of love, teamwork, friendships, and relationships are far stronger than humans will ever be able to fully understand.
Currently, Tilikum is 32-years-old, around 12,000 pounds, and 22.5 feet long. His dorsal fin is completely collapsed and has been seen from onlookers at SeaWorld Orlando to simply float lifelessly at edges of the pool for hours at a time. Dorsal fin collapse is seen in every male in captivity, but in less than 1% in the wild. Since his first home at SeaLand (which was shut down shortly after Tilikum was sold to SeaWorld) he has been 'raked' by his fellow orca inmates. Raking is the act in which whales take their teeth and scrape it alonside another whale, which results in large wounds and visible scrapes alongside his body. Since suffering separation anxiety, abuse from his fellow captive orcas, and abuse from his early owners, Tilikum has tailspun in to a sort of psychosis-- and has been involved in three human deaths while in captivity. This fact is something interesting on its own since orcas have never been recorded to attack and kill a human in the wild.
There are many ways that we can stop this from continuing. First and foremost, do not buy a ticket to SeaWorld, or any park that condones the captivity of marine mammals. Secondly, spread awareness by signing this petition and sharing it to others, sharing the issue on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and any other social networking sites, and become involved with other campaigns and petitions that are currently going around.
As humans we tend to forget that we are not above nature, as we are animals ourselves and we play a role in the food chain. If we allow this type of imprisonment to continue we are accepting it and encouraging it. As a society we have the chance to come together and return Tilikum, and even the other whales at SeaWorld, to where they rightfully belong. Because in the words of Jaques Cousteau, "When we return wild animals to nature, we merely return them to what is already theirs. For man cannot give wild animals freedom, they can only take it away."