Orca Pod Wiki

Credit: SeaWorld

Tilikum was a 35 year old male orca who lived at SeaWorld Orlando. He was captured in Iceland on November 9, 1983. He was the most successful breeding male orca in captivity. He was also one of the largest weighing around 12,000 pounds and being approximately 23 feet long. He passed away on January 6, 2017.

Tilikum was captured in Iceland in 1983. He soon moved to Sealand Victoria where he lived with two other female orcas, Haida 2 and Nootka 4. On December 24, 1991, Haida gave birth to his first calf, a male named Kyuquot. Tilikum was involved in the death of his trainer, where she fell into the water and was drowned. None of the orcas had ever been trained to have people in the water with them, so when she fell into the pool the whales didn't know how to react. It is not known which orcas were the ones who took the most part in her death, though it has been said Nootka and Haida were more involved. The four orcas where soon sent to SeaWorld parks and Sealand closed permanently.




Age at Capture-Approximately 2

Place of Capture-Togi, Iceland

Date of Death-1/6/17

Place of Death-SeaWorld Orlando

Cause of Death-Bacterial Pneumonia




Origin of Tilikum

  • Chinook for "Friend" or "People"
  • Pronounced: till EH kum


  • Tilly
  • Tili


  • 12,000 lbs (2009)
  • 11,700 lbs (2015)
  • 11,800 (2016)


  • 22 ft (2016)


  • 100% Icelandic

Tilikum had lived at SeaWorld of Orlando ever since moving from Sealand. Despite his size, he was a submissive orca as males rank lower in the pod than females do. Because of this, he would sometimes be raked by the more dominant orcas so he was often kept with the ones who weren't as dominant. In 1993, a female named Gudrun gave birth to his daughter Nyar. Nyar was physically and mentally ill. To end her daughter's suffering, she tried drowning Nyar. It is common for many species of animals to try to end their offspring's life when they are ill. As Gudrun became more aggressive, it was decided to try putting Nyar with Tilikum. The two did very good together and Tilikum was very gentle with his daughter. Sadly, Nyar passed away in 1996 from her illness. For a long time he was often seen with his mate Taima. Although she was a dominant female, they both got along very well. In 2007, Taima gave birth to her third calf Malia. Malia soon joined her parents in the shows. They went on to have four calves together, though Taima died giving birth to her last calf, a stillborn, in 2010. Luckily in 2008, Tilikum was introduced to a female named Takara, and her son Trua, who is also Tilikum’s grandson. Takara moved to another park in 2009, but he was often grouped with Trua in and out of shows. Trua became a great companion for Tilikum and the two liked spending time together. Trua could even bring out Tilikum's more playful side despite his laziness. In mid 2016, Tilikum started spending less time with Trua and was reintroduced to his daughter Malia. The two hadn't spent much time together after Malia's mom passed away, but they seemed to do very well together and performed together in shows.

In 1999, a mentally ill man hid in SeaWorld after the park closed. He snuck into Tilikum’s tank and was found in the morning draped over Tilikum's back without clothing. The coroner’s report stated he died from hypothermia and drowning. He had a few bite marks and bruises, but it is unknown if he received them before or after death or both.

On February 24, 2010, Tilikum was involved in a third death. At the end of a Dine With Shamu show, his trainer Dawn Brancheau, was laying on the platform known as a slideout, which is used for the orcas to slide onto. She had been playing with him just before the incident. Her hair was in a long pony tail hanging in the water when Tilikum grabbed it and she went underwater. It is thought that maybe he thought it was a fish or toy as she had just been jumping back and forth playing with him in a video that was shot just minutes before. Her pony tail had been moving back and forth which may have caught his attention. Trainers say they had seen no warning signs of aggression from him, but two other female orcas, Kayla and Kalina, had been having issues with each other. Despite his history, he was actually a very gentle whale. He had never shown aggression to his trainers or other orcas. He only had issues when people have been in the water with him.

In March 2016, SeaWorld announced Tilikum had been fighting a bacterial lung infection. It was something he had been fighting for a while, but he did end up doing better. He had ups and downs throughout the illness, but had gotten well enough that he could be seen playing with other whales and sometimes in shows. Sadly, on January 6, 2017, it was announced Tilikum had passed away that morning. His cause of death was bacterial pneumonia.

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