The documentary “Blackfish” tells the story of a killer whale called Tilikum. Tilikum was captured in the wild as a baby and brought into captivity to be trained as an entertainment whale for a place called Sealand. When he killed one of his trainers, he was sold to Sea World and the death was kept quiet…until he killed two more people.
The story of his capture and the way his behavior deteriorated after being in captivity for so long reminded me of the dolphins in The Cove. Orca whales, like dolphins, are highly emotional and social creatures, who are much more intelligent than we might ever be able to realize. They are self aware and create emotional connections with the beings around them. The only difference between dolphins and killer whales is you don’t exactly hear about dolphins killing their trainers. When these intelligent yet wild creatures are locked up, their mental states are pushed to extremes. In The Cove, the captive dolphins would act depressed, and some would even commit suicide. In Blackfish, the whales also get depressed, but their aggressive nature is also forced to come out. The whales in Sea World are whales that have been separated from their families and forced to live with stranger whales who have different customs and behaviors, endure abusive treatment in order to be trained properly, and live in environments so small that it causes the males’ dorsal fins to collapse. So, of course, the killer whale is going to eventually snap and live up to his name. I found it interesting the natural versus unnatural sides of this documentary. How the amusement park tells countless lies to convince people that the way their whales are is perfectly normal and the same as in the wild. How killer whales have never actually killed a human being in the wild. How orca to orca aggression is rare in the wild, and how when the mother whale’s baby was taken from her she began to act completely different and made sounds that humans have never heard because they’re sounds meant to travel over a great distance.
This documentary gave me a lot to think about and informed me a lot about orcas. I used to think they were these vicious creatures for no reason (I’ve heard that they kill their own babies?) but really it’s human interference that has made them act out. I’m appalled that Tilikum is still in captivity and is still being forced to perform, despite the human lives he’s taken and the depressed behavior he exhibits.