The Death Of Tilikum

It’s hard to find words when all you have are emotions.

Sadness. Pain. Anger. Heartbreak. Some sort of bittersweet relief. Indignation.

Tilikum was the catalyst behind the start of Blue Freedom. It was his plight that inspired our founder, Kate Emmons, to start a petition to release Tilikum to a sea pen that garnered more than 230,000 signatures on

January 6, 2017 Tilikum died.

Maybe the softer term would be that he passed away or that he’s resting peacefully.

But the truth is he died.

He did not die a natural death with the ocean waves there to carry him to his final resting place.

He did not die in his native waters, surrounded by family members he might have spent 50+ years with.

He did not die in a sea pen with salt water and caretakers who tried to give him back the most freedom that they could.

Tilikum died in a tank.

He died in a barren, artificial environment having spent the majority of his life being used for profit so schoolchildren and tourists could get splashed by “Shamu”.

He died of a bacterial lung infection at 35 years old so Sea World could use him to build up their captive orca collection and breeding program.

He died in Orlando, Florida, so very far from Iceland, so very far from home.

I think of how many labels Tilikum carried throughout his life in captivity. The whale that killed trainers. Sea World’s most notorious orca. The whale behind Blackfish.

I think about how all those things were cries for help from a creature who did not belong in a tank. Did not belong in captivity. Did not belong anywhere, but the ocean.

Yet there he was. And there he died.

Did he have an idea what he meant to so many people?

Did he know how many people were fighting for him?

Did he realize he started a revolution?

There are so many words to say in regards to the life Tilikum led..or didn’t lead.

You might be angry or sad or confused about what to do or maybe all three.

Tilikum deserved better.

So do the other whales and dolphins kept in captivity around the world.

Tilikum may only have reached his freedom through death, but there is still hope for those left behind.

There is still hope.


Keep fighting for them.

Keep fighting for the future Tilikum should have had.

Educate, discuss, protest, don’t buy a ticket.

Do whatever is within your power to see things change.

Just don’t give up.

Until this industry comes to an end, until every tank is empty, until every whale is free:

Keep. Fighting.