Correcting Mistakes: Tilikum and the Orca Breeding Program

Breeding in captivity always seems the last resort for animals that is critically endangered in the wild. This method is employed not because animals can no longer breed in the wild but due to human-related interventions, animal pairing and rearing in the wild have been proven to be either precarious or unattainable.

Marine biologist and animal conservationists still argue that for the lack of conclusive data, the status of killer whales or orcas are still to be determined. However, documented sightings all around the globe suggest that more or less, the status of these marine mammals is still relatively stable. No major decline has been reported in orca migration or presence in territorial waters are documented and no major industry or fishing expedition targets orcas for the purpose of meat or other more specific purposes. The only fishing expeditions that have targeted Orcas specifically in the past years are the ones that target the creatures for live capture to be bred in captivity.

The case of capture and captivity of orcas has been documented by the film “Blackfish” that was premiered in the 2013 Sundance Festival. The release of the documentary fueled criticism that eventually resulted to the halt of the SeaWorld’s Orca breeding program.

Setting things straight

The motive behind the SeaWorld’s Orca breeding program actually came from the genuine passion of the company in popularizing different exotic and incredible marine animals to the society. Albeit proven to be disadvantageous to Orcas in the long-run, back in 1989 when Tilikum was caught in the Icelandic region, nearly majority of the world population haven’t heard or read about the animals in the first place. Some people back then wouldn’t even care to see the animal because it had the word “killer” as a moniker. The rise in the popularity of Orcas as adorable and intelligent animals were put into the mainstream because of the shows that were the highlights of SeaWorld back in its heydays. In retrospect perhaps, the company committed a necessary mistake without malice and was driven by admirable yet misdirected intentions.

The advancement of our knowledge systems in the science of marine biology that lead us to the study of behavioral patterns of these aquatic mammals and were able to explain the psychology of these animals and their system of society, SeaWorld readily accepted the fact that if for the sake of future generations of orcas then the breeding must stop. This was a laudable effort coming from an industry whose profit-making abilities will be damaged severely by that decision.

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