The documentary “Blackfish” tells the story of a killer whale named Tilikum, who has been accused of killing three people but is still retained by SeaWorld. The film blames the entertainment industry for turning these normally social and intelligent
wild animals into psychotic killers.
Since a trainer was killed in 2010, Tilikum hasn’t been participating in shows, instead spending his days bobbing in empty pools alone, according to a 2010 report from The Orca Project.
So why is SeaWorld holding onto an animal known to be aggressive (even if releasing him into the wild may be a bad idea, they could donate him to a foundation that could give him a larger pool in the sea and more stimulation)?
“It’s quite simple to answer,” former SeaWorld trainer Jeffrey Ventre said in “Blackfish.” “His semen is worth a lot of money.”
The big mammal is milked for his semen regularly by trainers, who use it to inseminate female whales and create more babies.
“Over the years Tilikum has been one of the main breeding whales at SeaWorld,” former trainer Samantha Berg said. “It’s brilliant because they can inseminate way more female whales because they can get his sperm and freeze it. Then he’s basically operating as a sperm banker.”
Should we be breeding more whales like Tilikum? Berg says this could be a big mistake.
“In a reputable breeding program, rule number one is you certainly would not breed an animal that has shown a history of aggression toward humans. Imagine if you had a pit bull who had killed, that animal would have likely been put down,” she said in the movie.
SeaWorld claims that the incidents pinned on Tilikum are tragic accidents, not signs of continued aggression toward humans. In an email to Business Insider, Fred Jacobs, the head of communications for SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc., said:
Research on defining behavioural tendencies makes it clear that in order to classify an animal’s temperament, the behaviour must be consistently demonstrated (Reale et al., 2007 [in the journal Biological Reviews]). As our staff testified in the OSHA proceedings, Tilikum was not considered an aggressive animal and did not have a single incident report of aggression during his time in our care. Even trainers who are now opposed to the zoological display of killer whales describe Tilikum as a very even-tempered animal.
Jacobs also told us in a separate email that he thinks (but could not confirm) that Tilikum’s sperm is “not currently being used in our artificial insemination program for killer whales.”
Nonetheless, Tilikum’s progeny are widespread, with his genes found in 54% of the whales in SeaWorld’s collections, according to Berg.
Here’s the diagram of all of Tilikum’s family tree:
Now for the disgusting part.
WARNING: The GIFs below are graphic and could be NSFW.
Here’s the prep for “milking” Tilikum. He positions himself on his back next to the pool with his penis out. Yes, his penis is the large pink thing the trainer is holding and stroking:
And the sperm-collecting act in full gif form:
“Blackfish” was released in select U.S. theatres in July of 2013, and has made it broadcast premiere on Oct. 24 on CNN and will be out on DVD on Nov. 1.
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