Is Tilikum the first serial killer whale?

The headline seems flippant, but the question is worth asking.

Tilikum, the biggest orca in captivity, has been linked to three human deaths.

The first occurred in 1991 at Sealand of the Pacific in the Victoria suburb of Oak Bay. A trainer, Keltie Byrne,  drowned after  ending  up in the pool with Tilikum and two other whales.

Tilikum was sent to SeaWorld in Orlando over the objection of B.C. animal-rights activists. In 1999, a man who somehow got into Tilikum's pool never got out alive.

And yesterday, an experienced trainer died after ending up in the same pool as Tilikum.

If a human being was put in solitary confinement for nearly 20 years, he or she might feel a little homicidal toward the guards. We don't know if Tilikum has experienced a similar emotion toward his trainers.

But three deaths in 19 years raises some serious questions about the effect of keeping these  enormous creatures in relatively small pools.

We phased out keeping orcas in captivity in B.C. several years ago.

SeaWorld Orlando, however, states that it has "every intention of continuing to interact with this animal [Tilikum], though the procedures for working with him will change."

Perhaps this latest tragedy will be the catalyst for campaigns to bring a legislative ban on the practice of keeping orcas in captivity--on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border.


Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter at twitter.com/csmithstraight.

Comments (9) Add New Comment
Steve from Detroit
Agree with the author's suggestions here, yes killer whales definitely should not be held in captivity in pools which must be immensely confining for a ocean going whale. The author here puts it rather mildly though: "might feel a little homicidal" to trainers? No definitely the whale is extremely agitated and stressed by the claustrophobic confinement of being in a concrete pool, and also being taunted to do tricks for pieces of fish.

The whale is lashing out at its traumatizers in revenge for its being jailed and traumatized on a daily basis. Tilikum deliberately killed these people, read the detailed reports on the death of Dawn Branchau--a dozen patrons watched in horror as the whale yanked her underwater by the pony tail, then grabbed her torso and shook her like a rag doll underwater, viciously from side to side. (read more here: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100224/ap_on_re_us/us_seaworld_death ).

The whales should all be released back into the ocean, they are being traumatized clearly by these "circus animal" corporate show SeaWorld Oralando is.
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JamieLee
I think Tilikum is in need of a good criminal defence lawyer especially if she is deemed to be a serial killer!!
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Fishmonger
Shaking prey back and forth and pulling the prey underwater to drown is what whales do, to seals for example.
These are "wild" animals, and should be allowed to live as they are supposed to.
Time to send the captive Orcas back to their natural enviroments and shut down the seaparks.
Orca whales can swim up to 400 miles per day in the wild. No wonder they snap and go mad when forced to spend their lives swimming around a tiny pool their entire lives.
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Hugawhale
This whale killed before. I was around in Victoria when the whale killed here before being moved to San Diego. I was a child and was able to play "behind the scenes" as my parents worked there. While the whole world went crazy saying let the whale go or "kill it" because it killed, the "behind the scenes" talk was that the whale only wanted to play. Whales, like dogs, cats, etc have to be controled. If you let them get away with things they get out of control and decide what they want to do. A good dog will bite you if you let it. A cat will scratch you if you let it. While I dont think whales should be in captivity now, one thing for sure is that, without the whales, dolphins, zoos etc being around people would have never ever learned about them. And if that did not happen we would still be in the days of killing everything in sight just because we didnt know or understand it. How many species would be extinct today if we didnt learn about them in places like this first.

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Krystle
Tillikum was well fed and his victims weren't eaten. You take a 12,000 pound animal who is lonely and wants someone to play with and you're asking for trouble.

Orcas are highly intelligent, highly social animals that usually swim about 100km a day in the wild. I don't think that Tillikum meant to kill the trainer, but to play with her and assert his dominance, as orcas do naturally. How is a whale supposed to know that his natural instincts are irrelevant when living in captivity?
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Ashliegh Gehl
"The headline seems flippant, but the question is worth asking."

Although the headline is flippant, the question is certainly not worth asking. I'm particularly disgusted with how far Tilikum is being personified.

I'm certainly not against anthropomorphism, I'm just as guilty as the next for treating cats and dogs as family members, but In this case, it's dangerous. Putting what should be a wild mammal in captivity and giving it a 'death sentence' (as it is now being suggested by some) because it hasn't followed captivity protocol is unethical.

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FatJan
Very few people seem to realize that a great percentage of whales caught in the wild only to be sold to the highest bidder, actually do not make it past a year in captivity.

If you ask me, what Tilikum and other captive orcas have gone through is not all that different to what victims of the African slave trade endured. Kidnapping, bondage, alienation, forced labor. Also, capturing these whales and selling them to Marine parks help to bring them closer to extinction.
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Stryder
DA! what about killer whale don't you get, they do not call them killer whales for not. When you keep a large preditory mammal in a bath tub what do they expect to happen?
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whoknows
The photos I saw, of the attack, before they took them OFF, showed Tillikum attacking Dawn JUST LIKE WHALES ATTACK SEALS! Throwing, not letting get air, pushing, jumping on etc. I think he KNEW he was killing her. I don't know WHY! They are intelligent! they know! I also notice the OTHER whales across the fence, in a "submissive" state. All is NOT being said here! Poor Dawn!
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