This morning I received an email from the Humane Society with the above image. After years of keeping and breeding orcas in captivity for its own profit, Sea World has announced it will cease their breeding program and will house no orcas in new facilities.
It's interesting that this announcement comes on the tail of one a week ago in which Sea World announced that Tilikum, their most prolific breeding orca, is dying of a treatment-resistant lung infection.
Tilikum was captured and taken from his mother's side at the age of 2. He is now 35. All of his years in captivity have been spent in small cement tanks. In early years at Sea Land in British Columbia he was brutalized by two female orcas and spent most of his time in a tiny tank in fear. When Sea World purchased him for their breeding program (knowing at that time that he had been involved in the deaths of two people) he was moved to Florida. Since then his sperm has been manually collected many times and he has fathered many orcas for Sea World's profit.
You can read the entire tragic story of his life here: http://www.seaworldofhurt.com/features/30-years-three-deaths-tilikums-tragic-story/
Since he killed his trainer in 2010 he has been kept in isolation with very little interaction with other whales or with people. Visitors over these six years report that he is depressed and has little interest in food during feeding times. They say there are no toys in his tank. He hangs vertically in the water of his small pool, staring at the gate that leads to the other areas of the park.
I send Tilikum light and hope that his death is not painful. For at least six years petitions and groups have asked that he be moved into a sea tank to live out his life, or released. This has never been done. His plight has inspired books and a movie, Blackfish. And hopefully, the end of an era at Sea World.
If you'd like to sign the Humane Society's pledge of support for ending orcas in captivity, go here: