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Saying Last Goodbyes to Tilikum

After hearing the news of Tilikum’s illness this morning, Ocean Advocate News felt obligated to go see him, possibly for the last time, and say goodbye.

On a Tuesday, the park was slow and eerily quiet. Arriving at the Dine with Shamu pool's underwater viewing, there was no sign of Tilikum which was to be expected. If he is as sick as reported, the park will keep him out of public view. In that case, the only way to see him is to hope to sneak a peak of his curved dorsal fin in the back during a show.

From the time the stadium opened about half hour prior to the show until the time that the show was over and guests were asked to leave the stadium Tilikum stayed at the gate of the med pool watching the show himself. He had company from Kayla through the bars of the gate prior to the show beginning, but he never left the gate.

A family of guests reported that they had visited the park for the past 5 days, and Tilikum hadn’t left the med pool the entire time. They also witnessed trainers taking samples from his blowhole. Educational staff reported that he is receiving veterinary care around the clock. The end is near.

There is no way to tell how he is breathing from that far away, but the fact that SeaWorld is reporting him sick is enough to know his death is inevitably close. The park typically tries to mask when other animals are sick.

SeaWorld said that if he had this lung infection in the wild he would not have survived this long. However, the real issue is that if he hadn’t spent his entire life in a tank would he have this infection to begin with? Wild whales have a healthy immune system, but in captivity it is weakened.

SeaWorld has always said that their animals are ambassadors, but Tilikum has been a true ambassador for what is wrong with the captivity industry. We owe him our respect and thanks for showing the world that the time has come to end this practice and empty the tanks once and for all.

All photographs © Heather Murphy / Ocean Advocate News

Reproduction or distribution strictly prohibited without express permission from Ocean Advocate News.

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