When you think about it…what should Tilikum’s future be?

Photo by Drew Bennett

Tilikum is back. He returned to public performances last month at SeaWorld Orlando for the first time since he killed a trainer at the marine park more than a year ago.

While SeaWorld contends the company has made many safety upgrades to the killer whale facilities in all its parks, and plans to do even more, there are those who wonder about placing these animals in near contact, if not direct, contact with humans. SeaWorld has assured everyone that no trainers will be allowed in the water with Tilikum.

But is that really the issue now—whether humans should be in the water with killer whales and other marine mammals? Or should the question be: why do we keep these animals confined in oversized fishbowls to begin with?

Following the most recent Tilikum-related death, Tilikum was moved out of sight into a pool by himself. One day he’s a superstar for SeaWorld Orlando and the next he’s 12,3000 pounds of deadly mammal (the largest orca in captivity), who by the way, had killed humans before. Is keeping him isolated good for him? Probably not. Is putting him on display at SeaWorld so people can get to see the killer whale in action (and pay big bucks to do so—tickets start around $70)? Maybe not. Should he be released? Maybe. Could he survive in the wild? Who can say for sure? After all, he was removed from the wild when he was just two years of age in 1983. He’s known no other world than oversized bathtubs, first in Sealand of the Pacific in Canada and since 1992 in SeaWorld Orlando.

When you think about it, how can we in all good conscience place these animals in such precarious conditions leaving them and us sometimes little choice as to the best possible future for them? By removing any wild animal from his or her natural setting and forcing that animal to perform for our benefit, we have created untenable situations for them and for us. But mostly for them. Whatever the decisions, Tilikum’s future looks dim.

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