Former B.C. whale Tilikum linked to three deaths, including two at SeaWorld Orlando

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      A B.C. critic of keeping whales in  captivity says her group warned aquarium officials not to keep a bull whale named Tilikum in shows after it was involved in the death of a trainer in 1991.

      Today (February 24), Tilikum, the largest orca in captivity,  was linked to  his third human death in 19 years. Two occurred at SeaWorld's Orlando facility.

      Annelise Sorg, spokesperson for No Whales in Captivity, told the Georgia Straight by phone that her organization raised the alarm after Keltie Byrne, 20, died in 1991 after ending up in the whale pool at Sealand of the Pacific in Oak Bay.

      "We all begged them, 'Don't allow these whales to be captivity with other people,' " Sorg said. "It's just ridiculous. And they didn't listen."

      According to Sorg, Byrne tried to get out of the tank, and  the whales grabbed her and pulled her back in with their teeth. She added that when her body was recovered, there were no teeth marks, indicating how gently the whales had handled her.

      "They would try to swim with her," she said.  "They would squish her between two whales, like they would do to an injured whale. They drowned her. It took two hours to get the body out."

      Sealand of the Pacific  closed after  Byrne's death, and Tilikum was transferred to Florida,  where he  ended up in SeaWorld's Orlando facility.

      In 1999, a  27-year-old man was found dead draped over Tilikum's back after he snuck into the SeaWorld pen to swim with whales.

      Today, SeaWorld announced that a female trainer died after  ending up in  a whale pool at  SeaWorld in Orlando.

      The Orlando Sentinel has reported that Tilikum pulled Dawn Brancheau, 40, into the pool after a Dine With Shamu show. She reportedly drowned in front of at least two dozen spectators.

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      Feb 24, 2010 at 6:43pm

      Why hasn't it been put down after the 1st death?


      Feb 24, 2010 at 7:51pm

      BECAUSE hes a wild animal!! We take their space and food and make them preform for us!! We capture them and stuff them into too small and stressfull enclosures! Of course some of them snap!

      AB Hansen

      Feb 24, 2010 at 7:54pm

      Put down? It is the fault of the humans this orca is behaving this way. Whales or dolphins in captivity shld be prohibited. They are not livestock.


      Feb 24, 2010 at 8:16pm

      Better question: Why wasn't it released back into the wild? It's not like it was born in captivity.


      Feb 24, 2010 at 8:42pm

      These animals should not be kept in captivity. We saw the whale show at Sea World Orlando 3 years ago and my heart felt condolences go out to the family of Dawn Brancheau who was in the show at that time. It was a spectacular show and I was in awe of the animals and trainers, but I felt bad for the animals since their tank was so small and they are built to swim great distances. However like so many parents I wanted my children to see a whale and to feel the same awe inspiring love that I feel for them. My daughter at that time said she wanted to be a trainer and we bought her a hat that said "trainer" on it.
      I understand that people are torn between seeing these majestic creatures up close and leaving them in the wild. Who wouldn't want to see or touch something as awesome as a whale. With all this said, the underlying truth is that they are still wild animals with instinct that is prehistoric. They hunt, they eat, they mate. Whales and dolphins form pods, families and social hiearchy they are more complex in their thinking and communication than we can begin to understand. Who knows why Tilikum did what he did, but whatever the reason he should not be in contact with people, but splitting him from his pod would be equally cruel. No he does not deserve to die as he probably dosen't even know he did anything wrong. It would not serve a purpose to have the animal destroyed other than self satisfaction and "an eye for an eye" attitude. I'm sure that his trainer wouldn't want that either. She obviously loved these creatures in order to devote her life to them. There are always risks when working with animals and I'm sure she knew those risks. Like any other job may it be construction, racecar driving or working in a factory with large machinery there are always risks.
      If we learn anything from this tragedy it should be that we need to respect the shear size and strength of these animals, never to trust them to the point of loosing respect and not to take anymore from the Oceans. Unfortunately rehabilitation to the wild is probably not an option, so the damage was done when he was captured in the first place. Perhaps Sea World could build a larger encloseur to give them more room and make Tilikum a view only attraction. If I could see them swimming around and not perform I would still be in awe. A humane size habitat would be a bonus.


      Feb 24, 2010 at 9:17pm

      i mean this was a captured whale who swam 400 miles a day... i think it may have been a little tough for her to be stuck in such a little tank. the scond man was an idiot who snuck into her tank- he was found on her back the next day... she tried to save him what the heck was he thinking. the third person was an accident-- she should have known better and this whale should not have ever been in captivity it wasn't captured for any other reason than entertainment. and people then question how this could happen? the whale should be put down!? no the people are.

      not surprised

      Feb 24, 2010 at 11:25pm

      Because its a wild creature in captivity, playing. Not a wild creature in the wild, hunting humans.
      12,300 lbs creature, 150 lbs human. I'm surprised this doesn't happen more often? (oh wait...)

      maybe stop sticking humans with creatures who can accidentally kill their "trainer" with a fart?

      Just a thought ..

      Don't blame the wild animal, blame the stupid human trying to control the wild.


      Feb 25, 2010 at 10:03am

      Are you stupid? put the people down who are keeping these beautiful animals in fish tanks, you do NOT put the animal down he did noyhing wrong he is a KILLER WHALE if the name don't tell these idiots something then nothing will. THEY ARE WILD ANIMALS NOT FISH TO BRE KEPT IN A TANK

      Nora Bryant

      Feb 25, 2010 at 12:24pm

      Stupid Sea World! Stupid ignorant Trainers Think That They are immortal around these animals just because they have been working with them for years. That's ridiculous. They Are Wild Animals and always will be. Of course he didn't mean to kill the women because that's how they rough house and play in the wild amongst each other and the fact that these animals are much more powerful then humans clearly shows when these things happen. It's not the Orca's fault at all.

      P Glavin

      Feb 25, 2010 at 2:31pm

      It's time to stop exploiting these animals in seaquariums and circus's for monetary gain and entertaining humans. Holding wild animals in captivity so that humans can amuse themselves is unconscionable. The headlines on this are screaming "Killer Whale kills trainer at Seaworld".
      More people need to stop and think about what keeping a 12 thousand pound animal in a small concrete tank is actaully doing to the animal.