In the late 1970’s, as legislation was introduced in BC and Washington to prohibit Orca capture in the Pacific Northwest, companies turned their attention to the open waters off Iceland.  It was here where the infamous captive male Orca, Tilikum, was captured at the age of 2 years old in 1983.  Tragically torn away from his mother and family pod he was destined to live out his life in a cramped concrete pool.

tilikum
Tilikum, the world’s most famous captive Orca, on display at SeaWorld Orlando, Florida. Photo by Milan Boers.

Following the deaths of 3 people, (1 trainer at the now-closed Sealand of the Pacific in 1992, a trespasser and another trainer at SeaWorld in 1999 and 2010), Tilikum became the subject of the ground-breaking documentary, Blackfish.  This film was a heart-breaking account of the cruel treatment and despicable conditions endured by this captive performing Orca.  However the documentary also showcased these extraordinary animals in a new light – the incredible bonds between Orca family pods, the complexity in their social structure, and that as mammals, they are very similar to ourselves.

Whilst the death of any Orca is very sad news, Tilikum’s passing will be met with both gratitude, sorrow and regret.  He inspired a sea change in public opinion, a generation of new moral judgment, and social conscience, towards animals in captivity.