A Tale of a Whale with Rap Sheet A Mile Long

Tillikum the killer.

The criminal record of the killer whale named Tilikum, star of SeaWorld, and recently accused of yet another murder of a trainer is long and checkered.  Mike Esterl wrote about the park’s dilemma in today’s WSJ.

This is one mean killer whale, now with two murders and one suspicious death under her big old belt since 1991. Since the most recent trainer drowning two weeks ago, the 22-foot long Tilikum has been limited to swimming around a tank, not doing her usual tricks with the trainers.  What to do with their popular and now terrifying killer whale, who was captured off the coast of Iceland back in 1983?

Today SeaWorld counts Tillikum among their most prized assets, helping to generate hundreds of millions in revenue for the parks. Last year Blackstone Capital purchased the three SeaWorld parks from the Belgian conglomerate InBev who bought Budweiser. The CEO of Seaworld said there is no way they’d even think of euthanizing their biggest most murderous water park star.  “We’re not in the business of punishing our animals,” then CEO said.

A beast that earns that much money isn’t cheap to feed and house either. Tillikum chows down on 250 pounds of restaurant-quality salmon, mackerel, squid a day, and keeping the seven-million-gallon tank at the right salinity costs millions. Blackstone officials politely declined to make their own recommendation, even though it is clear that sending Tilikum out to sea pasture would hurt the Seaworld bottom line.  One possible retirement for the murdering whale being considered is an open cove  called a sea pen with a net across it.