Tilikum: The Long Horror Is Over. RIP.


Tilikum, a life stolen. Photo by Colleen Gorman,  Tilikum’s angel on earth.


Page will be updated as news comes in.

Six SRKW deaths, young and old, in 2016.This fragile endangered population cannot withstand this kind of disaster. There are as of January 6, 2016  78 SRKWs left, from an historic possible high of 200 before Pacific Northwest wild captures decimated the family groups.

Just a few days ago, the announcement that Granny, Southern Resident matriarch, leader, historian, is presumed dead at about 104, not having been seen since October 2016. Now Tilikum, wild caught in Iceland, not a Southern Resident, but so well known all over the world as a result of activists’ work (eg Colleen Gorman of The Orca Project), and Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s “Blackfish“.  


“When he was no more than a two-year-old baby, Tilikum was ripped from his ocean home off the coast of Iceland in November 1983. He would never see his family, feel the sea water on his skin or experience freedom again. Instead, he was sold to the highest bidder. “


“Isolated by himself in a tank smaller than the average backyard pool where he could barely move or turn, much less swim, Tilikum was used as an involuntary sperm donor in SeaWorld’s artificial-insemination breeding program, to make more little orcas to entertain tourists. I won’t even go into the degrading details of how that was carried out. To his captors he was a commodity, not a sentient being.”



Degrading details have been documented. Interspecies sexual abuse at SeaWorld.Orcas trained from adolescenceto accept hand jobs.


Howard Garrett of Whidbey Island-based Orca Network (Garrett appeared in Blackfish):“He led a terrible tragic life in that tiny little metal cage in Victoria … then at Sea World he was isolated and tormented by some of the dominant females the entire time he was in captivity,” he said. ” He was bored out of his gourd. I can’t believe he could live that way. There’s nothing around. It has concrete walls. It’s like living in a hall of mirrors with nothing to do but float listless. How bored could he have been? With a brain four times the size of ours that is constantly processing, but nothing to process. How did he even survive that long?” Garrett said that such conditions are conducive to creating psychosis in orcas. Especially since they are not evolved to be in such conditions.


Paul Spong, founder of the OrcaLab research station on northern Vancouver Island, followed Tilikum’s life: “In a way it comes as a relief. Tilikum has been in captivity for such a long time,” he said. “His life, I would characterize it as a total misery in many ways….He was kept right at the beginning in terrible circumstances in a tiny pool while his captors tried to sell him,” Spong said.


Blackfish director Gabriela Cowperthwaite on Friday mourned the loss of SeaWorld’s Tilikum, a killer whale who she said died a “martyr.”

<i>Blackfish</i> Director Calls SeaWorld’s Killer Whale Tilikum a ‘Martyr’

Sandra Pollard for World Cetacean Alliance:


#IAmTilikum #FinallyFree (video below made when Tilikum’s health started to fail)

Colleen Gorman and John Kielty’s The Orca Project (started it all):


The news, when it finally came, was not a surprise but it still stung. On January 6th, 2017, Sea World announced that Tilikum, the dark star of the 2013 ground-breaking documentary Blackfish, had died.


The “Blackfish” documentary argued that killer whales, when in captivity, become more aggressive toward humans and each other. After the documentary played at the Sundance Film Festival and aired on CNN, several entertainers pulled out of planned performances at SeaWorld parks and animal rights activists increased their demonstrations outside the parks.

SeaWorld: Tilikum, orca that killed trainer, has died

Candace Calloway Whiting: “His iconic life represented all that was wrong about keeping these majestic whales in tanks. Rest in peace, Tilikum.”


Tilikum was a wild-caught orca taken from his family in Icelandic waters when he was just two years old and he’s spent the last 34 years confined. Read about his tragic life in captivity.


Film-maker Gabriela Cowperthwaite then created a documentary about the treatment of orcas in captivity. The film, Blackfish, alleged attempted coverups of orca attacks on humans, which it said were caused by the conditions of captivity causing psychosis in the animals.


John Hargrove, former SeaWorld orca trainer (appears in Blackfish): “He lived a tortured existence in captivity. I think all the whales do, but if you had to pinpoint one of them, hands down I would say Tilikum.

“Tilikum’s life was so incredibly tragic. He lived a horrible life, he caused unspeakable pain, so at least his chapter is over,” Cowperthaite said.
“Tilikum lived longer than almost any other captive male orca has, but his life was one of deprivation and difficulty,” Animal Welfare Institute marine mammal scientist Naomi Rose said in a news release. “It is long since time for SeaWorld to begin serious consideration of retiring all of its orcas to seaside sanctuaries. Forcing these large, intelligent, socially complex animals to live out their sometimes decades-long lives in barren concrete tanks must end.”
Tilikum’s death is significant — his life, even more so. Over the past three decades, Tilikum has grown to become arguably the most famous animal in the world. Torn from his mother’s side off the coast of Iceland in 1983, he came to symbolize everything that was wrong with captivity.
Cowperthwaite said she hopes Tilikum’s life and death will sway the marine park to finally release all of its animals into the wild or into coastal sanctuaries. “His purpose in some way was hopefully to turn his tragic life into a lesson,” she said. “He can truly be an ambassador for what’s wrong with having animals in captivity.”

Steve Huxter (former orca trainer at Sealand of the Pacific in Oak Bay, near Victoria BC, where Tilikum was transferred after capture in Icelandic waters, taken from his mother at two years of age)  remembers Tilikum as gentle and eager to interact:


SeaWorld has announced that Tilikum, a killer whale with a troubled local past, died Friday morning.


Steve Huxter, former orca trainer (includes video of orca aggression from various orcas in captivity) remembers Tilikum :



My students and I say goodbye to Tilikum, sold and moved at midnight 1992




September 3, 2016: Last Day of Miami Seaquarium Shows for the Year




Victoria, BC was a late addition (as were many other locations) to this international demonstration organized by Shut Down Palace in support of Lolita Tokitae’s retirement, We would like September 3, 2016  to be the last show ever for Lolita Tokitae, because she has been allowed to retire after 46 years of captivity and exploitation, not because she died alone, far from her family, captive and exploited in a substandard tank.  But this is still only a hope, although Orca Network and the Center for Whale Research have developed a feasible and complete plan to return Lolita Tokitae to her home waters with human care for as long as that is needed.

On September 3, supporters of the plan were again on the streets of Victoria BC, where Lolita’s other still swims offshore, handing out information and gathering signatures on a letter to Parques Reunidos, which owns palace Entertainment, which owns the Miami Seaquairum. (All of that is owned by Arle Capital.)

Mr. Fernado Eiroa was CEO of Palace Entertainment from 2007 until February 2016, when he replaced  Yann Calliere as CEO of Parques Reunidos. There is no public information on who has replaced him as CEO of Palace Entertainment.

Fernando succeeds Yann Caillère (63) who, after two successful years of leading Parques Reunidos, decided to step down, given the longer term commitment required in the context of a targeted IPO of the company.”

Here’s hoping Parques’ IPO has the same trajectory as Sea World’s recent profit picture, as people realize the atrocity that orca and cetacean captivity is:

SeaWorld sees profits plunge 84% as customers desert controversial park

 At this time, this blog is the website for the Victoria Orca Festival Society.The letter is here, addressed to the CEO of Arle Capital (it has been sent previously with signatures gathered at 2016 FernFest directly to Arle Capital). The 47 letters from September 3  have been sent via Parques CEO Fernando Eiroa with the cover letter below. Please use the letters  as a template for your own.

September 3, 2016
Victoria Orca Festival Society
Victoria BC Canada

Mr. Fernando Eiroa
CEO, Parques Reunidos Group
Parques Reunidos Servicios Centrales S.A.
Casa de Campo S/N
28011 Madrid, Spain

Greetings, Mr. Eiroa:

Those of us who have asked over many years for the release of the orca Lolita Tokitae (Miami Seaquarium) to a protected sea pen in her home waters note that you are now responsible for Parques Reunidos as a whole, not only Palace Entertainment, your former position.

Enclosed are 47 letters signed by individuals in Victoria, British Columbia, a coastal city where Lolita’s mother still swims off our shores with her family in L pod, and the extended family of the Southern Resident orcas in J, K and L pods.  Theirs is a complex society, with transmission of culture and language and dialect over generations. The Southern Resident may range over 100 miles in a day.

The Miami Seaquarium could be at the cutting edge of true marine education, instead of on the post-Blackfish wrong side of history, by allowing Lolita to retire and at least contact her family again, if not rejoin them. We are prepared to support her with human assistance and provision of her preferred food for the rest of her life if needed.

Current released video and documents have shown the public that Lolita is not doing well. Please don’t let her die alone in a substandard tank on your watch.

On this last day of Seaquarium shows for this year, we ask that his be the last year of shows for Lolita Tokitae, and that you contact Howard Garrett at Orca Network , 2403 N Bluff Rd, Greenbank, WA 98253, United States in order to implement the Orca Network retirement, transport and sea pen plan.

Diane McNally
President, Victoria Orca Festival Society

Canadian Killer Whale Action Plan: Orcas Need Your Help Before August 14, 2016

Raincoast Conservation Foundation and the Georgia Strait Alliance both have this appeal on their websites and on social media. Both offer helpful background information and both offer assistance with writing a letter and an email.

Raincoast pointed out that an email gets more attention than a petition with multiple names so I did both – signed the petition and wrote an individual email. I hope you will do the same, and write your own email / letter.

I used Raincoast’s foundation letter as a guide and personalized it:

Date: Wed, Jul 27, 2016 at 9:41 PM
Subject: Killer Whale Recovery Plan
To: SARA_LEP@dfo-mpo.gc.ca, Min@dfo-mpo.gc.ca

Attention SARA and the Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard:

A West Coast resident’s expectations regarding the Killer Whale (orca) Action Plan:

1. I have read a couple of these now and there is usually little action involved apart from “more study”. It’s obviously long past time for more impactful action than that. An Action Plan that is specific to the 83 endangered Southern Resident orcas in J, K and L pods is required. The proposed Action Plan treats the  Southern and (200 + ) Northern Residents as one population, when they live in very different areas of the coast with very different challenges.

2.  An adequate food supply must be ensured. Low abundance of Chinook (Spring) salmon means orcas are not getting enough to eat, resulting in their birthrates dropping, and mortality increasing. More Chinook for whales will require closing commercial and recreational Chinook fisheries, and allowing these salmon runs to rebuild.

3.  Boats that closely follow resident killer whales hinder their ability to successfully catch salmon and create ongoing stress. Southern Resident orcas are within 400m of a vessel most of the time during daylight hours from May to September.  Regulations requiring the approach distance to be increased from 100m to at least 200m are urgently needed (matching US regulations), as well as regulations as limiting boat numbers, and/or constraining the viewing times and/or days when boats follow whales are also urgently needed.  To state the obvious, such regulations also require enforcement.

4.  Growing noise levels from ship traffic in the Salish Sea drastically interfere with  hunting, feeding  and communication. Until a Cumulative Effects Assessment is undertaken, and a noise budget completed, no Salish Sea shipping expansions (ergo, increased noise) can be approved.

5.  Funding to monitor and enforce regulations for endangered killer whales must be established.

The 5 above actions are immediate priorities. As well,  longer-term ongoing action that must also start now is needed to address marine pollutants, to create commitments to marine protected areas, to amend the marine mammal regulations, to identify Salish Sea killer whale sanctuaries, and to reduce ship noise.

I look forward to seeing a commitment to action. Don’t let the 83 SRKWs go extinct on your watch.

Diane McNally
Victoria Orca Festival Society
Victoria BC

Are You the Orca People? Yes! Thank You Fernfest!

A great day to wear my Cowichan-knit sweater with the orca design. It’s practically an antique now! Cool but did not rain.  29 letters signed to Arle Capital asking that uber- corporation  to urge their subsidiary Parques Reunidos to urge Palace Entertainment ( the lesser corporation, a subsidiary of Parques Reunidos that owns the Miami Seaquarium)  to retire Lolita Tokitae to a sea pen in the San Juans where her family still swims,  using Orca Network’s safe and realistic plan. Thank you for taking the time, all those who stopped to read and sign.

Feel free to use it yourself!

Sir George Buckley
Chairman, Arle Capital Partners Ltd
12 Charles II Street
London SW1Y 4QU

Re: Parques Reunidos/ Palace Entertainment: Retire Lolita Tokitae to a sea pen in her home waters

Dear Sir George,
I am writing from the coast of Lolita Tokitae’s home waters on a date near the 46th year of her captivity in the Miami Seaquarium. Her tank is barren and substandard. I urge Arle Capital to intervene on Lolita Tokitae’s behalf with Parques Reunidos / Palace Entertainment to allow Lolita to be retired, and returned to a sea pen in her home waters where her mother, Ocean Sun (L25) of L pod of the Southern Residents, still swims, along with Lolita’s extended family, all of whom have been designated under the Endangered Species Act in 2005. On May 11, 2015 the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (US) recognized Lolita as a member of the Southern Resident orca population, and thus endangered as well.

Lolita Tokitae was captured August 8,1970 as part of the Penn Cove Roundup / Massacre from the waters of the San Juan Islands. Her family unit, L-Pod, is a resident fish-eating group of orcas which researchers have documented extensively since 1973. Granny (J2) of J pod, part of the Southern Resident pods (J, K and L) is 104 this year. Lolita is about 48 years old, which is equivalent to human years, so she could have several decades of life remaining, If she is able to return to her native habitat. In the Miami Seaquarium’s tiny tank – not as deep as she is long – she lives a solitary life, performing what must be by now mindless routines daily for a dead fish reward, to entertain tourists who are not all yet aware of the level of cognitive complexity of orcas, though that awareness is growing.

She has endured the tragic suicide of her one-time companion Hugo (an orca also from her home waters, likely a relative with whom she could communicate) who bashed his head into the tank walls more than 30 years ago, in his teen years. She has been without the company of another orca for most of her years of performing at the Miami Seaquarium, although orcas are noted for their lifelong social and family connections.

Return to a sea pen off Orcas Island with human support for as long as she needs is supported by a safe and feasible plan developed by orca experts on staff at Orca Network who have worked with other leaders in the field. Once she regains her physical condition and strength and re-learns the skills necessary for survival, she would be given the opportunity to rejoin her family in the wild. She has not forgotten her family’s language and dialect. If she is unable to rejoin her family after the years spent alone in a tank, she will be cared for and allowed to live as natural a life as possible.

There is no significant risk to Lolita Tokitae in any stage of Orca Network’s proposal for Lolita’s retirement in her home. Remaining in captivity will result in continuing mental and physical stresses and related health issues.

A thorough examination will be conducted by a team of veterinarians and pathologists prior to transport to detect any potential communicable diseases. Assuming there are not, there will be no significant risk to any members of the Southern Resident Community as a result of Lolita Tokitae’s return to her home waters.

Parques Reunidos / Palace Entertainment has an opportunity to be on the right side of history by replacing cruel orca captivity with CGI / virtual reality encounters technology as a truly educational alternative. This decision would bring tremendous positive publicity to the Miami Seaquarium and Palace Entertainment.

I’ve included my return address. Please reply and let me know what you are going to do to get Lolita Tokitae home to the Salish Sea.



Many orca hats were made and worn – there was a big pod out there at Fernfest! Next year, Superpod!

Fernfest 2016 Henry orca hat

Henry, orca hat model!

Fernfest 2016 Henry Kelly

Kelly and Henry at the Orca Month BC (Victoria) table

Fernfest 2016 Kelly mosaic

Kelly’s “Community” mosaic contribution

Fernfest 2016 orca hat remember Ruffles J1

An orca hat to remember J1 Ruffles

Fernfest 2016 Orca Friends

Yes, we are the orca people :-)


Orca Awareness Month Proclaimed in City of Victoria

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Orca Awareness Month


My speech to Victoria City Council May 26 (the 5 minute limit exactly!):

May 26/16
Mayor Helps and Council:

Good evening! My name is Diane McNally; I’m here to thank you for your recognition of the Attorney-General ‘s proclamation of June as the first Orca Awareness Month in British Columbia!

You are invited to Orca Month’s first event Saturday June 4, 9 am at the Songhees Wellness Centre. Songhees Nation Elder and master carver Clarence “Butch” Dick will speak to the history of the Lkwungen people, with a connection to the orcas in the waters bordering the territory. Birthday cake, coffee, tea, juice will be served at 10 in the Board Room to celebrate the orca babies born last year. Information about additional events is on the Orca Month BC facebook page and will be provided on June 4.

Orca Month BC will help raise awareness of the fact that, even though orcas’ intelligence equals ours, and they are the apex predator in these waters, carrying 3D mental maps of huge territories, they need protection – from us. In the decades around the 1950s orcas were often shot on sight as fish stealing man eaters. We discovered that they were highly intelligent and friendly when Moby Doll was harpooned and briefly exhibited in Vancouver in 1964 . A commercial capture for exhibit began, and came to a legislated end in 1976 as a result of public outcry based on the late Michael Bigg‘s research that proved population numbers were not as high as thought.

There are 4 main groups of orcas who live in and visit the Salish Sea: Southern residents, Northern residents, Transients (Bigg’s), and Offshores.All are listed as “threatened”, the Southern Residents only steps from from extinction.

Not much is known about the 250 Offshore orcas who range from California to Alaska in open water and are believed to eat fish and sharks They occasionally visit BC coastal and inshore waters, in large groups.

The transients, or Bigg’s orcas – named in memory of the late Michael Bigg – range from California to Alaska. They eat sea mammals and are the only species of whale that kills other whales. Their societies are matrilineal but adult children may leave their mother at maturity. They travel in small groups.

The Northern Residents, a fish eating group of about 250 individuals, range from South East Alaska to Washington State, travelling in family groups. The 83 Southern Residents are the most studied orca group in the world, a local extended family clan made up of matrilineal families in J, K and L pods , fish eaters who travel from central California to Haida Gwaii in the winter but spending summer and fall here in the Salish Sea.

Northern and Southern Residents’ ranges overlap to an extent but they never intermingle.

With only 83 Southern Residents left, we need to focus on how we can help keep local orcas from extinction.They face many challenges including humans taking huge numbers of their basic food, Chinook salmon, dammed spawning rivers, acoustic interference from ships and boats, disorientation and physical harm from Sonar used in military exercises and exploration. Pollutants discharged in to the Salish sea have resulted in male SRs and transient males’ bodies being designated toxic waste at death. Baby orcas often die before reaching 1 year old, as a result of stressors including the toxin offload from their mothers in milk.

The elder of the Resident orcas is Granny, J2, of J pod. At about 104 years old she has seen the world she grew up in, a much quieter ocean world with plentiful Chinook, disappear.

What can we do? We can:
• Support wild salmon stream restoration
• Institute more stringent limits on pollutant discharge and runoff into the Salish Sea
• Continue evaluating and improving guidelines for boat and ship activity
• Evaluate the potential for oil spills and take appropriate action
• Continue cross-border coordination for monitoring, research, and enforcement

On behalf of the orcas, thank you for recognizing Orca Awareness Month in BC.

banner orca month

June Proclaimed Orca Awareness Month BC


banner orca month

British Columbia’s Attorney General has proclaimed  June as Orca Awareness Month in British Columbia! That means the proclamation  appears on the Attorney General’s website. Its then up to citizens who care, to generate some excitement! (Thanks to Graphic FX for the excellent banner, developed from my “conceptual” sketch!)


Pages from Scan_20160406_120521 (3)-7

Events are scheduled in Oak Bay and the City of Victoria by organizers in each of those municipalities.

At the  Victoria City Council meeting May 26, 6:30,  the Mayor will read and acknowledge the Attorney General’s Proclamation, and I will address council for a few minutes on behalf of Granny and the SRKWs, and the transients – but especially the SRKWs!

Saturday June 4, 9 am at the beautiful Songhees Wellness Centre, in the Board Room: Master carver and Songhees elder Clarence “Butch” Dick will present a powerpoint on the history of the Lkwungen people and the Wellness Centre’s inception and journey to reality, along with some thoughts on the orcas who have lived alongside the Lkwungen people for millennia. Around 10 am, tea, coffee, juice and birthday cakes for the baby orcas who have made it to 1 year old, and remembering one who didn’t make it.

Life is challenging for the babies with the high toxin offload from mom, and the ongoing difficulties with finding Chinook salmon (their preferred food), ever increasing ship and boat traffic noise in their home waters, sonar bursts fro military exercises and exploration, and pollution.

On Saturday June 11 I will be downtown with individual letters you can sign to Arle Capital and Palace Entertainment, who own the Miami Seaquarium where L pod Lolita has been imprisoned since her capture in the Penn Cove captures in 1970. I will stamp and mail them! The letters urge Palace Entertainment and parent company to allow Lolita Tokitae to retire to a sea pen in the San Juan Islands, her family’s home waters.

Additionally, in Oak Bay, on Saturday June 11th at 1:30 pm at Oak Bay United Church hall, the issues will be discussed by MPs Elizabeth May (Federal Green Party) and  Randall Garrison (Federal NDP, who has tabled a Motion in Parliament for a recovery plan for resident orcas), and North Saanich and Islands MLA Gary Holman, who promotes Marine Conservation Area status for Georgia Strait. Deborah Dickson will explain the Salish Sea Biosphere Initiative, and Dr. Jason Colby, Associate Professor of History at UVic, will discuss the changing human relationship with orcas in the Salish Sea and the importance of international protection strategies.

Saturday June 18 is FernFest, and Orca Month BC (Victoria) will have a table there, with orca hats (paper; you make them), information, letters to sign, stick on tattoos, a few copies of Granny’s Clan, and Fragile Waters dvd for sale, Orcas In Our Midst Volume 3 by donation, and more.

And – we have a ferry of our own to be on the water with the Washington State ferry MV Tokitae: the Salish Orca!

Re: “Whale of a design for ferry art,” March 30.How wonderful to see Darlene Gait on the front page on Wednesday with her winning Salish Orca design for B.C. Ferries. This is particularly exciting news as June will be proclaimed Orca Month in B.C. Events are planned for Oak Bay and Victoria to celebrate the initial Orca Month B.C., with the focus especially on the 84 remaining endangered southern resident fish-eating orcas in J, K and L pods, that swim by Victoria. Some Victoria activities will be synced with Washington state’s 10th Orca Month, in celebration of these fascinating, intelligent, family-bonded and linguistically complex beings, who have inhabited these waters for millennia. Watch for notifications on Facebook: Orca Month B.C. Congratulations, Darlene Gait. The Salish Orca will be a beautiful sight on the waters, reminding us of the care we owe to these beings of the sea. ~ Diane McNally, Victoria

Washington State has been observing Orca Month annually , with the 10th year coming up! We’re pleased to join hands (and pec fins) across the waters this June!



August 8, 2015: 45 Years: Retire Lolita Tokitae to a sea pen in her home waters


This gallery contains 2 photos.

I urge Palace Entertainment to allow Lolita to be retired, and returned to a sea pen in her home waters where her mother, Ocean Sun (L25) of L pod of the Southern Residents, still swims, along with Lolita’s extended family, all of whom live under Endangered Species Act protection. Recently, the US government officially recognized Endangered Species status to Lolita, as well. Return to a sea pen with human support for as long as she needs is feasible, and could lead to a successful reunion with her family. Continue reading