RIP, Tilikum

Imagine you’re a baby orca.

You live in the deep blue ocean that’s six miles deep. Everyday you swim for hundreds of miles to hunt for food, play, and explore new territories.

You have a loving family who has been protecting you since the day you were born. You formed a strong bond with each member of the pod. You grow up, meet new friends, have your own family, and you think to yourself, there’s really nothing more in life that you could ask for.

That could have been the life of Tilikum, a 36-year-old male orca who died last week at SeaWorld Orlando, had he not been stolen from his family near Iceland at the age of two.

Instead of roaming the ocean, living a free life that every creature deserves, he was confined at various marine parks and spent more than three decades of his life in a tiny tank performing tricks for park visitors in the name of “education”. In his short, miserable life, he was responsible for three human deaths in total – two trainers and a park visitor.

How painful is it to have everything taken away from us?

How frustrating is it to have nothing else to do other than floating aimlessly in a confined space that’s more than a million times smaller than our natural habitat?

How heartbreaking is it to remember the life and the family we used to have, while being surrounded by strangers in a foreign environment?

Companies like SeaWorld have tried to come up with a plethora of justifications, but I only want to ask – would you like to be treated the same way?

Empathy is not rocket science. It doesn’t require complicated calculations of all the ramifications. All it requires is an open heart, one that is willing to feel and understand. If we wouldn’t want our beloved child to be kidnapped and forced to live in captivity, why would we do that to anyone else’s child? Human beings take pride in technological advances and the so-called development for a better world. But how disconnected have we become, to forget about our most basic ability to be compassionate?

I’ve done and grown so much since the day I came into this world. I’ve lived in different countries, gone to college and graduate school, met amazing friends, fallen in love, pursued my dreams in life, stumbled and gotten back up again, and made my own choices. But for Tilikum, in the past three decades, every day was the same – the same tiny pool, the same tricks, and the same deprivation. I can’t help feeling heartbroken when I think about him and what he had gone through. When I started my blog a few months ago, I told myself I would only write about positive things. But there’s a voice inside of me that says this time I have to express the sadness and the pain as a way to pay tribute to him.

I couldn’t stop crying when I heard that Tilikum passed away. However, I’m happy that he’s finally free. There’s no more suffering or torture. I can only hope that his death will be a wakeup call for my fellow human beings to awaken the kindness in us, and for SeaWorld to transfer its remaining orcas to coastal sanctuaries.

If Tilikum’s death saddens you, please watch Black Fish and never, ever support marine parks.

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