Thursday, May 1, 2014

World as Classroom: Film Explores Captive Orca's Deadly Attacks

By Michael Seyler

For my course enrichment component I watched the film Black Fish. The film is a documentary that explores the death of a trainer at SeaWorld and the main goal of the film is to inform the audience that killer whales should not be kept in captivity. The movie follows the orca named Tilikum who currently performs at SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida. While watching this film I learned that Tilikum is actually responsible for the deaths of three people.

Tilikum was originally a performer at Sealand in Canada. This segment of the film featured an interview with a former whale capturer. The film shows footage of whales being taken from their families by the capturers. The man being interviewed starts to cry saying that taking these animals away from their families was one of the most depressing things he has ever seen. The movie then shows footage of the whales screaming for their baby orca while it is being loaded onto a boat.

Tilikum was a performer at Sealand for a while until a very horrific incident happened. Tilikum and two other whales drowned a biology student after she slipped and fell into the water. They submerged her underwater and she drowned in front of people visiting the park. People were not sure why the orcas did this. However, this incident did not stop Tilikum from performing. Shortly after this incident Sealand closed and Tilikum was moved to SeaWorld Orlando.

The trainers at SeaWorld did not have many problems with Tilikum. One night a man snuck into the park and jumped into the pool with the orca. The next morning his mutilated body was discovered on Tilikum’s back and SeaWorld did nothing to find out why the orca did this. Some of trainers began to suspect that Tilikum might be frustrated from being locked up in a pool all the time. SeaWorld refused to believe this and continued letting the whale interact with trainers.

In 2010, Tilikum killed a trainer named Dawn Brancheau who had 16 years of experience training. SeaWorld told the public that the whale drowned her while it was playing, but this was far from the truth. Tilikum aggressively attacked her and drastically mutilated her body. SeaWorld refused to even acknowledge this and they blamed the entire thing on trainer error. Marine biologist said the behavior most likely came from Tilikum being unhappy in his living conditions.

This film completely changed my point of view on SeaWorld. Throughout the movie there are several interviews with former trainers at SeaWorld and they do not speak highly of the orcas’ lifestyle. The way the orcas lived in the captivity was not as pleasant as it should have been, Tilikum was often starved to discipline him and at Sealand he was locked in with females and they often attacked him because they were often frustrated from being locked in the small pool.

Tilikum still performs today at SeaWorld and there have only been mild changes to make him more comfortable. I choose to watch Black Fish because the ocean and its wildlife is the most interesting aspect of the environment, in my opinion. It is obvious that SeaWorld is not going to stop keeping orcas in captivity, so another incident may be inevitable.  

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