Anyone who has visited SeaWorld in Orlando has seen the famous killer whale routine. You will “oh and ah” as you witness an animal more than 12,000 pounds flip out of water, swim in majestic ways, and hoist trainers up on his beak. It is easy to forget in this moment that these creatures are kept in unnatural environments.
There is one orca in particular that is causing quite a stir in the news. Tilikum is about to make his first appearance in over a year at a SeaWorld Believe show. He has been off display since he dragged his trainer down by her hair and drowned her during a performance in February of 2010. This isn’t the first freak kill. Two more incidents, one in 1991 and one in 1999, have left two other people dead.
These deaths remind us that orcas, such as Tilikum, are still animals. They are used to swimming 100 miles a day in the wild, not swimming circles in artificially enhanced water. There are questions of whether it is ethical for the animals to live this life and whether the human risk is worth the profit.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been to SeaWorld and I’ve witnessed the magic. It is beautiful to watch these gigantic creatures do such amazing things. However, human lives have been lost, and these are animals after all. They should not be treated as play things for human entertainment. The time to consider releasing them for thier own sake is now.
Unfortunately, Tilikum would not be able to survive in the wild, along with many other SeaWorld animals. We could address this problem by stopping the production of such shows and releasing the captive animals into a seaside sanctuary. It would serve as a middle ground between one large tank and complete freedom. What it boils down to is: How many people will lose their life before we deem killer whales as unpredictable?
Natasha Tomchin is a freshman majoring in history and public relations. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.