SeaWorld Responds to Tillikum's Death

TillikumFeatured in Chapter 7 of the 10th edition, SeaWorld has not responded well to controversy about keeping orcas in captivity. Tillikum, an orca with a starring role in the movie Blackfish, died on January 6. In response, SeaWorld updated its Tillikum page with news about his "life and care," which, of course, have been in question for the 25 years he lived and worked at the park. The company also produced a video, "In Memory of Tillikum."

In a statement on its website, the company does acknowledge Dawn Bradshaw's death. However, the recent approach seems to blame Tillikum, while previous communications blamed Bradshaw and her wayward ponytail. 

While today is a difficult day for the SeaWorld family, it's important to remember that Tilikum lived a long and enriching life while at SeaWorld and inspired millions of people to care about this amazing species.

Tilikum's life will always be inextricably connected with the loss of our dear friend and colleague, Dawn Brancheau.  While we all experienced profound sadness about that loss, we continued to offer Tilikum the best care possible, each and every day, from the country's leading experts in marine mammals.

In December, PETA named Tillikum its first "animal of the year." When he died, PETA president and founder Ingrid Newkirk wrote an opinion article for Time Inc. titled, "Tillikum Died for His Freedom."

Image source.


  • How well is SeaWorld handling communications around Tillikum's death? Should the company do something differently now?
  • How well is PETA capitalizing on the chance to get its message out? What persuasive strategies does Newkirk use in her Time Inc. op-ed? Was a Time article a good choice? What other channels did PETA use?