Captive Orca Profiles
Tilikum, the killer whale
Tilikum, or Tilly, was a male captive orca who gained infamy as a killer whale responsible for the deaths of three humans, Keltie Byrne, Daniel Dukes, and Dawn Brancheau. Captured in waters off Iceland, Tilikum was sent to Sealand of the Pacific, a now defunct marine park near Victoria, Canada, where he was routinely bullied by his tankmates. After killing trainer Keltie Byrne, Tilikum would be transferred to SeaWorld Orlando, where he would ultimately kill two more people. After the death of Brancheau in 2010, Tilikum spent much of his time in isolation away from trainers and other whales. The largest male orca in captivity, Tilikum was easily identified by his collapsed dorsal fin. After a prolonged illness due to treatment-resistant bacterial infection, Tilikum died in January of 2017.
Morgan is a female orca rescued off the coast of the Netherlands, now residing at Loro Parque, Spain. Contrary to initial understanding, Morgan was not released and has been used for captive display and performance. Evidence released in 2016 demonstrated that Morgan’s teeth had suffered significant damage and had undergone drilling, while additional video footage showed her banging her head against a gate. Other videos of Morgan appearing to beach herself on a slideout platform raised concerns about her well-being. She has been photographed with scars inflicted by other captives, and in December of 2017, it was announced that Morgan had been impregnated at the age of eleven. Morgan is officially listed as an asset of SeaWorld.
Lolita, the Loneliest Orca
Lolita, also known as Tokitae, is the final surviving orca of the Penn Cove capture of 1970. A Southern Resident orca from L-pod, Lolita has been living in a substandard tank (one that violates Animal Welfare Act standards) at Miami Seaquarium for almost 50 years. She has not seen a fellow orca since 1980, when her tankmate Hugo died from self-inflicted wounds. Her current dolphin tankmates routinely show aggression.
During Hurricane Irma in 2017, Dolphin Project obtained video footage showing that Lolita had been left in her tank unprotected, to ride out the storm.
As a Southern Resident orca, Lolita and her family members are protected under the Endangered Species Act, yet she has been afforded no protections under the law. When played the calls of her pod, Lolita still recognized and responded to the sounds.
Kiska in Solitary Confinement
Kiska is the last remaining orca at Marineland, Niagara Falls, Canada. She was wild-caught from Icelandic waters in October 1979 at an estimated age of three years old and has been held in captivity ever since.
Kiska has produced five calves, all of which are missing, or presumed dead. In 2011, Kiska’s last tank mate, an orca named Ikaika, was returned to SeaWorld. He was sent to Marineland in 2004 on a breeding loan, but after a lengthy custody battle the courts ruled against Marineland and the dolphin was shipped back to the United States.
In 2015, Ontario became the first province in Canada to make it illegal to buy, sell or breed orcas. In 2019, Canada made history with the passing of Bill S-203: Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act. Bill S-203 will prohibit breeding, imports, exports and live captures of whales, dolphins and porpoises across Canada. Kiska, as she is the property of Marineland, will be grandfathered into this legislation, thus, remains exempt from these laws.