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Killer Whales in Captivity? "Blackfish" Documentary Makes Splash

Orlando's SeaWorld the subject of a documentary film.

ORLANDO, FL – Orlando's SeaWorld is the subject of a documentary film gaining national attention. "Blackfish" examines whether killer whales should be kept in captivity and opens with the tragic death of the amusement park trainer killed in 2010 by the whale, "Tilikum."

According to Gabriela Cowperthwaite, the film's director, as someone who once brought her kids to SeaWorld, her investigation into orcas in captivity was a real eye opener.

The Orca Project
Death At Seaworld
An Experience at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
Seeing is Believing: Tilikum’s Lonely Life after Dawn

"I feel that it would be a good thing if people come out a bit shocked and angered, because that's very much how I felt when I started learning the truth," she said. "I think that it should raise questions, and kind of encourage a debate."

"Blackfish" is playing in Aventura, Boca Raton and Miami Beach, and opening in more cities this weekend. SeaWorld sent out letters disputing the film's accuracy to 40 film critics, and declined to be interviewed for the film. Repeated attempts for comment from SeaWorld for this story went unanswered.

Related: Supporter “Talks Back” for Freedom of Captive Orca Lolita at Miami Seaquarium on 40th Anniversary
For 40 years, the Southern resident orca named Lolita (or Tokitae, Toki for short), has been held in captivity at the Miami Seaquarium… performing for tourists in what is an illegally sized pool, far too small by current Animal Welfare Act regulations. Many have spent years fighting for her freedom. 40 years to the day of Tokitae’s brutal capture in which she was torn from her family, one individual’s simple innocent written statement declaring “Free Lolita” nearly led to her own confinement by the Miami Police Department. This is her story:

As it turns out, Tilikum was responsible for two other deaths, including one other at SeaWorld. That came as a surprise to Cowperthwaite and to some SeaWorld trainers. According to the film, there is no record of orcas killing humans in the wild, but over 100 reported incidents of orca aggression at SeaWorld. Many attribute this to whales being kept in unnatural settings, according to Cowperthwaite.

Tilikum's Plea to End Orca Captivity

"Learning what whales need to thrive, let alone survive, blew me away," she said. "The fact that there's really no way that we can ever give them even a fraction of what they need to thrive and survive in captivity... It's a bit heart-wrenching."

Cowperthwaite said SeaWorld is a multi-billion dollar industry and that she hopes they will use their resources to evolve, specifically to stop using highly-intelligent mammals for entertainment, place them into rehab and release facilities, or at the very least in sea pens. Tilikum has been in captivity for 30 years and continues to perform at SeaWorld. He has sired several offspring in captivity.

Photos and links added by the Observer

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