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PNS Daily Newscast - September 21, 2018 


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Documentary Raises Questions About Killer Whales in Captivity

PHOTO: The documentary film "Blackfish" about Tilikum, the now-infamous orca responsible for three deaths while in captivity opened over the weekend. Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.
PHOTO: The documentary film "Blackfish" about Tilikum, the now-infamous orca responsible for three deaths while in captivity opened over the weekend. Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.
July 29, 2013

PHOENIX - Should killer whales be kept in captivity and made to perform tricks for humans? That's a question raised in the documentary called "Blackfish." The film opens with the tragic death of a Sea World trainer killed in 2010 by Tilikum the whale, and moves back in time to show orcas being captured as infants from their families in the wild.

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

"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" opened over the weekend in limited release. The film opens in Scottsdale and Tucson August 9. Sea World sent out letters disputing the film's accuracy to 40 film critics, and declined to be interviewed for the film. Repeated attempts for comment for this story went unanswered by Sea World.

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

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

Cowperthwaite said Sea World is a multi-billion-dollar industry and that she hopes they will use their resources to evolve past using animals for entertainment, and place these highly-intelligent mammals 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 Sea World. He has sired several offspring in captivity.

A list of theaters showing the film is at tinyurl.com/qbwdyq3.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ