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SeaWorld's Tilikum Dead at 36

 Tilikum at SeaWorld
Tilikum at SeaWorld. Photo: Blackfish, Magnolia Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

SeaWorld Orlando's most famous killer whale, Tilikum, who inspired the documentary Blackfish, has died, the theme park announced in a statement on its website Friday, January 6, 2017. He was estimated to be about 36 years old.

The 12,500-pound mammal, nicknamed "Tili," was captured near Iceland in 1983 at age 2 and has lived in captivity for more than 33 years. He was shipped to SeaWorld about 25 years ago from Canada's Sealand of the Pacific park.

Tilikum Dead at 36  

SeaWorld Cares?
Do they?

On the Seaworld website it states: "Tilikum was near the high end of the average life expectancy for male killer whales according to an (unnamed) independent scientific review."

With a little research, research you can do yourself using Google/Bing, it turns out that SeaWorld has been lying all along. Here are the facts:

Marine Mammal Science 

Captive killer whale (Orcinus orca) survival by Jeff Ventre: Despite successful breeding of captive killer whales since 1985 there is growing concern for their welfare in captivity, which often includes claims of poor survival. We employed Kaplan-Meier and Cox Propor-tional hazards models and annual survival rate analyses on 201 captive killer whales to discern how sex, facility (U.S. vs.foreign), captive-born vs. wild-captured, pre- vs. post-1 January 1985, and animal age upon entering captivity affect survival... Survival of captive killer whale cohorts has generally improved through time, although survival to age milestones are poor when compared to wild killer whales.

the dodo 

Jeff's data has spoken: "Captive orcas - like those at SeaWorld - aren't living as long as they should be... Globally, 63 percent of the whales who died in captivity before 2014 had been in captivity for fewer than six years, according to the paper. The researchers point out that these deaths occur despite the fact that the animals are free from predators and other environmental stressors. Only eight of those whales made it past their 30th year in captivity... With the new data, it's obvious that compared with wild whales, SeaWorld isn't even coming close."

Psychology Today - Marc Bekoff Ph.D. 

Commenting on the report: "Captive killer whale (Orcinus orca) survival" by Jeffrey Ventre.
"I found the results of this study to be extremely interesting and important and they support the fact that captive orcas are not better off than their wild relatives because they supposedly get better care."

Uni of Washington - Roberta Kwok 

Also commenting: "Although captive whale survival has risen over the years, these animals (Killer Whales) still lag their wild counterparts considerably... The research also holds some lessons for managers. Captive-born whales faced a higher risk of dying between two to six and 11 to 12 years old."

Longevity of Killer Whales in the Wild

the dodo - Melissa Cronin 

So, how long do Killer Whales live? A 2005 research paper by Olesiuk, Ellis and Ford for 'Fisheries and Oceans Canada', titled "Life History and Population Dynamics of Northern Resident Killer Whales (Orcinus orca) in British Columbia" concluded:
Absent the pre-1973 mortalities from shootings, and the toxic contamination from persistent organochlorine pollutants, the data would have shown many more females in their 80s and 90s or more, and more males in their 60s and 70s or more, about equivalent to human lifespans. It's entirely possible they could have even longer lifespans.

Tilikum was 36 years old when he died. A male human is in the prime of his life at 36. In captivity, SeaWorld says Tilikum was at the High End of life expectancy. You might wonder what SeaWorld says the life expectancy of it's male employees is?

In March, 2017 SeaWorld announced that it ended its orca breeding program, and the current Killer whales at SeaWorld will be the last generation for the park.

Marine Mamal Science - Captive killer whale (Orcinus orca) survival [Abstract]
Melissa Cronin - SeaWorld's Claims About Orca Life Span Just Got Blown To Pieces
Marc Bekoff Ph.D. - Captive Killer Whales Die Much Younger than Wild Orcas
Roberta Kwok - How Long Do Captive Killer Whales Survive?
Orca Network - How long do orcas live?
Peter F. Olesiuk - Life History and Population Dynamics of Northern Resident Killer Whales (Orcinus orca) in British Columbia [PDF]

READ all about Killer whales here at: Discovering Whales

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