Wild animals are wild animals. It has been proven again and again that large, powerful, smart, male, wild animals are dangerous and should be respected. When these wild animals follow human commands, jump thru hoops, ride bicyclesÂ or wear polo shirts it’s easy to lose that respect.
This article discusses the life and possible motivation of “Tilly” who recently killed his highly skilled and caring trainer, Dawn Brancheau, in Seaworld Orlando.
The attack by Tilly follows recent trends with chimpanzee attacks. Large, strong, males are dangerous and have the potential to attack and kill humans.
Tilikum at work
Killer Whale Trainer Death Tied to Mating, Isolation
Boredom and raging hormones may have contributed to the tragic attack by a SeaWorld killer whale.
Discoverynews.com | By Jennifer Viegas | Thu Feb 25, 2010 02:24 AM ET
* The male killer whale that killed a trainer at SeaWorld Orlando, was often used for breeding and, at other times, housed in isolation.
* Another male killer whale, named Ky, also attacked his trainer under similar circumstances.
* Experts believe Tilikum’s captivity, frequent breeding and the fact that he was captured in the wild could all have contributed to the fatality.
Tilikum, the male killer whale that fatally injured trainer Dawn Brancheau in front of a stunned audience at SeaWorld in Orlando on Wednesday, was a breeding “stud” often housed in isolation.
Experts believe he did not kill for food, but may have been acting out due to stress and raging hormones.
While some reports have been portraying Tilikum as a particularly aggressive orca, a nearly identical incident involving another killer whale male named Ky occurred in July 2004 at the San Antonio SeaWorld.
Trainer Steve Aibel, like Brancheau, was pulled underwater by the whale, which also attempted to bite, but Aibel walked away uninjured. He later blamed Ky’s “adolescent hormones” for the episode.
Marine biologist Nancy Blake told Discovery News that Tilikum could have acted out for similar reasons.
“He was used a lot [by SeaWorld] for mating, and could have even been enacting a mating behavior during the incident,” explained Blake, a leading expert on killer whales who runs California’s Monterey Bay Whale Watch.
According to GREMM, a Quebec-based marine mammal research and education group, intense competition may take place between male whales before mating. Males and females may also challenge each other, with females sometimes changing their diving behavior during the process.
Captured near Iceland in November 1983, Tilikum “was housed in small tanks from the beginning,” said Blake. SeaWorld Orlando acquired the whale in January 1992, and put him in a breeding program shortly thereafter.
Over the years, Tilikum has sired at least 17 calves, 10 of which are still alive, making him the most successful orca father in captivity. He is also the only captive killer whale grandfather.
His captivity, frequent breeding and the fact that Tilikum was caught in the wild could all have contributed to Wednesdayâ€™s fatality, Blake believes.