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You’ve probably heard about Tilikum, one of the largest orcas held in captivity by SeaWorld. He weighs 12,500 pounds, measures more than 22 feet in length, and has been involved in the death of three humans who have entered a tank with him. But this wasn’t always the case …

Tilikum was captured near Iceland in November of 1983, more than 30 years ago. At just 2 years old, he was torn away from his family and ocean home. He was relegated to tank after tiny tank, eventually winding up at SeaWorld, where he has remained imprisoned ever since.

Steve Huxter | The Voice of the Orcas

This image shows Tilikum covered with lanolin, an oil extracted from sheep’s wool. It is applied to orcas’ whole bodies to prepare them for a long transport without water.

How much have things changed since Tilikum was violently taken from his ocean home in 1983?

Here’s how much the Honda Civic has evolved over time:

Here’s a peek at how cell phone technology has advanced:

SeaWorld’s “cell” technology on the other hand has remained pretty much the same since Tilikum arrived: confining an orca to a “cell” that’s essentially no more than a bathtub.

In November 1983, a new home would set you back about $91,400. Today, the average price of a new home is $341,000.

What else was happening in 1983, the year Tilikum was captured?

Return of the Jedi was the number one film of the year:

Thirty-two years later, the Force is still strong in Skywalker’s family—and Tilikum is STILL IN CAPTIVITY.

Cats won the Tony Award for Best Musical:

It would go on to be one of the longest-running Broadway shows in history, finally closing 17 years later. Tilikum remained imprisoned for the entirety of that time.

In 1992, Tilikum went to live at SeaWorld Orlando.

That same year, Bill Clinton was elected president. At the time, reporters and even Saturday Night Live joked about his unhealthy eating habits:

These days, Clinton is outspoken about the positive effects that vegan eating has had on his own health.

Popular culture, technology, the spread of information, and, of course, people’s attitudes have all evolved over the last 30 years seemingly everywhere—that is, EXCEPT at SeaWorld. The “sea circus” chain still continues to breed and keep orcas like Tilikum in captivity for profit.


Some orca pods in the wild have been observed swimming as many as 138 miles in a single day.

The tanks at SeaWorld are so small that an orca would have to swim more than 1,200 laps to cover the 100 miles that he or she might have swum in the wild.

Today, compassionate people all over the world are opening their eyes to the cruelty inherent in keeping animals like Tilikum in captivity.

In this aerial view of SeaWorld, you can see how little room the orcas have. Inside the circle is Tilikum, whose nose and tail appear to be able to touch both sides of the tank at the same time.

Want to help Tilikum and the other animals held at SeaWorld?

Share this post with your friends and family on Facebook and Twitter, and ask SeaWorld to #EmptyTheTanks and retire the animals it holds captive to seaside sanctuaries.

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