Whalesturbation and the disturbing tale of Blackfish OR why I can’t enjoy Shamu anymore

There’s this film…a semi biographical documentary about a Orca named Tilikum.  Tilikum is an imprisoned slave to the SeaWorld company who keeps him around for profit.  Tilikum has been known to contribute to or outright kill and mutilate people.  Especially people with ponytails.  And this disturbing information is what I’m bringing with me after watching the movie Blackfish.Apparently back in the 1970s it was okay to round up Orcas (if I slip up and call them killer whales, I’m sorry.  I already lost the argument and recognize that Orcas are dolphins and not whales.  Taxonomy is not the point of this post nor is the differentiation between whales and dolphins part of the movie.) with nets and steal their children.  Mind you, it seems Orcas have a very strong social facility and an emotional bond.  They travel in matriarchal pods and adult killer whales will continue to stay with their mothers.

So … guys in boats and planes set off explosives in the water to herd orcas into big nets.  Then they remove the babies.  The only words I have to describe acts like that are inhumane.  Which doesn’t seem to be appropriate for talking about animals.

That is no longer legal in the state of Washington it seems.  So now they only do that in like … iceland or finland or something land.  Just where do you think Shamu came from?  Where did I?  I was kind of hoping in some fairytale where an injured set of whales were rescued and given medical care but their condition required further aid so they were raised in captivity and their offspring gave way to the Shamu of the world.  I may have been a naive child.

Tilikum and two females lived in a very small park called Sealand in Victoria BC.  It was just a netted off area of the Pacific Ocean and at night they would be stuffed in a metal box so they couldn’t be liberated.  He got beat up as a child by two dominant female orca and he may have killed a trainer there which may be why Sealand closed and he found himself at SeaWorld.

There was an incident where some strange person may have one night jumped in the tank with Tilikum and Tilikum may have stripped Daniel Dukes of his clothes and castrated him. Tilikum may have then paraded Dukes on his back around the pool which is how the naked mutilated corpse was found the next morning.  I don’t really know what happened.  The incident is to bizarre for it to make sense to me.

The third death involves the death of experienced trainer Dawn Brancheau.  She was trying to have a moment with Tilikum, perhaps to try and chat and relate to him.  (He had been acting kind of odd).  And then he either grabbed her by the arm and took her down into the tank or maybe he didn’t approve of her hairstyle and dragged her by the ponytail.  SeaWorld apparently thinks that the ponytail may have gotten caught in his mouth.  They of course would much rather blame the trainer and her hair, as Tilikum is a bit of a cash cow.

Tilikum is a fairly fertile male.  And SeaWorld has been milking him for semen.  The documentarians displayed footage of orca masturbation … more than I thought I would ever see in a lifetime …  and perhaps this is why even after three tragic deaths, Tilikum remains with SeaWorld, performing in shows.

In short:  Orca are really advanced animals and we’ve done some horrible things to them.  Sometimes bad things happen, and even though sometimes they can be really friendly, we need to realize that when a six ton athletic animal grabs you by the foot, you will end up where they take you.

Blackfish was a good film that made me uncomfortable which I believe was the intention of the filmmakers.  I’m ranking it at #13 out of 26 movies seen in 2013.

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