Being a filmmaker, I understand the power of documentaries. You cannot study under great documentarians like Steve Bognar, Jim Klein, and Julia Reichert and not understand the power of this film medium. I also comprehend that documentaries often slant their opinion to that of the director. A documentarian is making a statement, about something, with their film. However, a good documentarian bases that statement upon facts.
It is hard to dispute the facts in Blackfish, a documentary directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite, which focuses on the captivity of whales, in particular, that of Tilikum. It is hard to dispute the fact that whales are majestic creatures. They are social creatures. There is nary a story of whales harming humans in the wild, yet there are over 70 incident reports of accidents happening where whales have hurt humans while in captivity.
You cannot blame the whales for this. These are massively large creatures trapped in environments not even 1% the size of their natural habitats. They are used to swimming hundreds of miles per day. They are used to socializing with their family. They have distinct vocalizations only heard in their pods. They stay with their mothers into adulthood. Their dorsal fins remain straight and strong. They swim in straight lines and protect their young and when something happens to destroy part of their pod, they mourn.
In captivity they only live about 1/3 the length of time they can live in the wild. That is a fact. 100% of males have bent over dorsal fins, comparable to 1% in the wild. They are put together with whales not in their family. Whales they cannot even talk to because they do not speak the same language. It would be the equivalent of keeping a Russian, an American, a Chinese person, a Brazilian and an African together in a 500 square foot apartment with none of them speaking the same language and the inability to learn the same language, ever. There is bound to be some frustration in this environment. With frustration comes anger. With anger comes violence.
It is a fact three people died in the presence of Tilikum. Keltie Byrne died in 1991, while in the presence of Tilikum and two female whales, when she fell into the water with them. Eyewitnesses claim it was Tilikum who initiated pulling her around, and they claim they know this from the fact he had a bent dorsal fin. These accusations cannot be proven. It is a fact that Daniel P. Dukes’ naked body was found draped across Tilikum’s body in 1997. His genitals had been chewed off. It is unclear if Tilikum killed him and if the bite marks and genital mutilation occurred pre or post mortem. It is a fact Tilikum dragged his trainer, Dawn Brancheau, into the water and killed her, in 2010. It is a fact he dragged her in by her arm. It is a fact SeaWorld lied, twice, about how Dawn came into the pool with Tilly. It is a fact both times placed the blame on her. It is a fact Dawn was one of the most careful trainers and a senior trainer who took all the safety precautions she could. It is a fact she asked more and more of Tilly giving him fewer rewards prior to him pulling her in the water. It is a fact he missed a cue, even though he did a perfect behavior, so he did not get rewarded for the behavior. It is a fact Dawn’s body was brutalized by Tilly and he wouldn’t let anyone near her body for hours.
The facts show Tilikum was kept in horrendous conditions practically since his capture in 1983. He was taken from his mother at just 2 years of age. He was taken from his family to be used for human entertainment and as a whale stud. He has sired 21 calves and 11 of them survive. He was kept in a 20 feet by 28 feet pen, in the dark, every night, with two female whales that savagely abused him, his first few years in captivity. He was starved, as a means of training him. He was battered by females at his new home, in SeaWorld Orlando. He is isolated for extended periods of time. This highly social creature is starved for contact with his whale family. He has suffered for 30 years. He does not have much longer left to live in captivity, if you go off SeaWorld’s estimate of whales in captivity living 25-35 years.
It is my Christmas wish to see Tilikum freed to a seapen in the ocean. It may be too late for Tilly to be reunited with his pod family, but as former SeaWorld trainer Samantha Berg said in Blackfish, he needs to be released to an ocean sanctuary where he can live out his days feeling the natural rhythm of the ocean. He deserves this. SeaWorld keeps him around for his sperm, nothing more. SeaWorld separates babies from their mommas as young as four years old and those mommas grieve. SeaWorld cares about their profits. We need to care about their whales.
I urge you all to help me make my Christmas wish come true. Help me free Tilikum. Help free all whales in captivity. What is done to them is inhumane. SeaWorld should change their efforts from entertainment to conservation. What they do to these majestic sea animals is barbaric.
Please Sign the petition to help free Tilikum. SIGN IT AND SHARE IT!!
Please send an email to SeaWorld telling them you do not support what they do to whales.
Make a vow to not to go to SeaWorld anymore.
Advocate for whales. They deserve our help, love and support.
Merry Christmas. Please help make this wish come true, for Tilly and all the other whales in captivity.
UPDATE AS OF 11:02 PM 12/25/2013: Please sign the petition to retire Lolita to her ocean sanctuary in the Puget Sound. Lolita has been captive for 40 years. She would live near her family in a safe rehabilitation cove that is 900 feet, much bigger than her tiny tank, which breaks Animal Protection regulations with its size.