Tilikum is SeaWorld’s most iconic killer whale, having lived at the theme park for 23 of his 34 years, and he is very sick. Veterinary staff at SeaWorld have explained his illness as a treatment-resistant form of bacterial pneumonia which could realistically prove fatal. Despite his condition, Tilikum is still expected to perform tricks and entertain crowds, perhaps right until the day he dies.

SeaWorld released the above video this week, which was intended to placate public upset and explain away the orca’s illness. Handlers in the video stress that Tilikum is receiving the “best possible care” for his condition, and others talk about Tilikum giving blood and fecal samples “voluntarily”—whatever that means—so they can monitor his health. The killer whale’s illness is described as a “respiratory condition caused by bacteria” which we all know as pneumonia. Anyone who has ever suffered a bout of such an infection knows that it is no walk in the marine park. In humans, pneumonia causes fever, muscle aches, fatigue, chest pain, coughing, and a sore throat. It’s reasonable to assume it would present similarly in other mammals, like Tillkum.

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SeaWorld’s animal handlers and veterinary care team get visibly choked up in the video when discussing Tilikum’s impending death, without the faintest hint of remorse about the concept that his life-long captivity stripped him of the life of an orca that nature intended. Instead, Tilikum is repeatedly talked about in the same way that people speak of a family pet, and clearly, a killer whale should not be considered a domestic animal.

SeaWorld employees in the video try to justify Tilikum’s lifelong captivity by claiming that he has lived longer at SeaWorld than he might have in the open sea, especially since falling ill. However, there is no mention of the possibility that he may not have experienced an illness like this in the wild, and that it could ultimately be captivity that kills him.

Via Seattle PI

Images via Wikipedia