Skip to Main Content

Can Tilly Be Released?

Written by PETA | March 11, 2010



Remember Keiko? As you may recall, Keiko was a wild orca who was captured in Iceland in 1979 and sold to a series of aquariums, where he was forced to perform tricks for food. He became sick and severely depressed. In 1993, after the movie Free Willy prompted a call for his retirement, Keiko was moved to the Oregon Coast Aquarium, where he was rehabilitated before being transferred to an ocean pen in Iceland. For five healthy years he lived free near wild orcas, hunting and catching his own food. At one point, he navigated more than 1,000 kilometers of open ocean as he made his way to Norway before dying in 2003.

After the tragic death of a trainer at SeaWorld last month, we called on the park to release Tilly and the rest of the animals the corporation keeps penned up in tiny pools. As a result of our plea, we received calls and e-mails from many people who were all wondering: Is it possible to release a captive animal back into his or her natural habitat?

It’s a good question, and those with legitimate concerns about captive animals’ ability to fend for themselves will probably also ask: Can the risk of failure outweigh the opportunity to experience freedom? And even if there are risks, don’t animals deserve some measure of the freedom they’ve been denied?

Of course, when we talk about releasing the animals at SeaWorld into the wild, they wouldn’t simply be dumped into the ocean. The process would be a considerable undertaking, with marine biologists, animal behaviorists, and scientists involved in the animals’ rehabilitation.

For those sea animals whose health or behavior has been too compromised by having spent years—or decades—in cramped, chemically treated tanks, there’s a humane alternative to outright release. Protected sea pens would allow greater freedom of movement; the ability to see, sense, and communicate with their wild cousins and other ocean animals as well as to feel the tides and waves; and opportunities to engage in natural behavior that they’ve long been denied. At the same time, caregivers would be able to provide food and other needed care.

Commenting is closed.
  • SummerTaylor says:

    Didn’t anyone here watch Blackfish? Tilly underwent abuse as a child/young adult. He was forced to perform with another whale and if he did not do as he was told he was starved. The Orca training with him was starved as well and they were both put into a dark pen at night together and locked away for many hours. During that time Tilly was abused and bitten by the other whale. They say Tilly was a model whale in spite of his abuse . . . until later when he snapped. I too was abused at a job and I also “snapped”. I still snap. Wake up people this is a cruel world full of cruel people who are greedy and money hungry and will do almost anything to make profit for their own greed.

  • Kiwi and Melon says:

    As a child my parents took me to Sea World and I was amused by what the marine animals were capable of doing. When I grew older and started to think differently about the shows hosted at Sea World with these creatures. I would ask my parents why are these animals captured and why do they need to perform for us. My parents who had no knowledge of animal rights simply said to me you have to give credit to the trainers who are able to tame these animals. After I was old enough to wonder on my own I went to Sea World a few times with my friends and always went home with sadness. I often question myself why are these animals kept in captivity. Of course I never had an answer to it. I also often question myself as to why I feel bad every time I go to Sea World. After reading about animals and wildlife for the past couple years I am finally able to dig into my real self and understand how I feel about animal cruelty in this nation. People simply use animals for their own pleasure and as a tool to make money. Simple as that. They spent tons of money when trying to free KeikoWilly back in 1998. The project can be viewed in different perspectives whether or not it was considered a succesful story. I will not say that setting wild animals free after being in captivity for years is a good or bad idea. Perhaps a santuary is an alternate for animals who can no longer live in the wild. KeikoWilly was free to come and go as he pleased. His pleasant nature and love for people sends the message of how animals can give unconditional love no matter what humans have done to them. Animals live in the moment. They do not hold grudges. What I can say is that humans often times create situations to others because of selfishness. Then when they catch themselves making mistakes they try to revive the situation by making more mistakes. Then there are nice people who is trying to do what is best for the animal and nature. All in all everything at the end is done by humans. If we humans understand this concept we should stop repeating our mistake. Give these animals a choice to speak for themselves. KeikoWilly was our great example. Give Tilly a choice. He will tell us what he wants.

    • LeslieSu says:

      I loved your comment! It is by far the best I’ve read about this. I hope it gets to many many people, because it explains things clearly and beautifully, and it could convince people to fight for Tilly’s real well being. People like you are the ones who change the world. Thank you for that!

  • Lauren Candice says:

    Kelly Ellis Tilly has been ACCUSED of killing three people one of them being a man who snuck into his exhibit at an aquarium. Who can blame Tilly for possibly attacking him? I do not profit at all from Sea World or anything like it but I honestly think that releasing ALL of the animals in captivity is a bad idea. Yes some should be released but unless you have a way of getting millions of dollars to the rehabilitation of those animals then there really isn’t much you can do. It is true that many are treated badly but if some were removed exhibits could be enlarged and the animals left behind would have more space. I don’t think that people would be as interested in these beautiful animals if it weren’t for the fact they they are held captive. Science is really benefitted by the close contact with the animals and other people want to learn more once they have seen them which is more likely to occur in an aquarium than the wild. A life pent up as entertainment would suck but you don’t even know if these animals have memories of what has happened to themthey cannot speak and tell you themselves. Really think about what could happen to animals released to the wildis it really worth losing so many for just a few to live? That doesn’t sound like conservation to me.

  • molly-marie buckley says:

    i feel that the treatment of these annimals is truly heartbreaking and i myself have only ever been to a show of this kind and left halfway through as seeing those majestic annimals forced to perform for crowds of screaming people made me very upset.i think it would be amazing if tilly could be released but i really dont see it happening he is worth too much to sea world it saddens me to know that these annimals have to suffer for our entertainment and greed.

  • tina mclees says:

    I say Free Tilly

  • Kelly Ellis says:

    I had never heard of a coastal sanctuary but that sounds like a wonderful option. I think something should be done as Tilly has now killed 3 people. We need to listen to what Tilly is trying to communicate.

  • Stephanie says:

    this really sucks i personally love animals and hate seeing them in this position.

  • Sonia Fey says:

    ban all those criminal sites aquariums circus etc……. this is enough for our entertainement. they are born FREE just like us swimming in dilute urine concrete tub and droppings disgusting

  • Helen says:

    It’s all in the name of making money. I don’t think they even consider how it affects the creature. I’m appauld at the things these beautiful animals have to go thru and live in confined space. It isn’t natural for these wonderful beings to be held like this they should be free to hunt and breed like they were made to do in the first place. Seaworld doesn’t think of the creature it only thinks in dollars…..

  • Christine says:

    Not a big fan of captivity I always thought that circus and aquariums would treat their animals like gold but unfortunately it’s not the case. It’s sad when people who work with these animals on a daily basis have no remorse for what has happened and aren’t looking out for what’s bestright. Release the whale and treat your animals better!!

  • Kirsi Soviola says:

    If people stopped going to see animals in tanks and cages it woldn’t be profitable to keep them!

  • Rev. Meg Schramm says:

    I highly recommend the documentary “Lolita A Slave to Entertainment” featuring Ric O’barry who is also featured in “The Cove”.

  • Shawna Mansuy says:

    I would love to see Tilly released but I don’t believe it will ever happen. He makes to much money for Sea World and is Sea World’s future. Sea World can no longer obtain permits to hunt orcas for captivity. They need their orcas to make babies and Tilly does just that. He has fathered many successfully. Sea World’s future is bright with Tilly. I wish these wonderful creatures didn’t have to pay the price for our greed. It is truly sad. A story more heartbreaking than Tilly’s involves a whale named Lolita living at the Miami Seaquarium. If you get a chance please educate yourself on her story and help in anyway you can. Thank you

  • Andre Inglis says:

    “Even if Tilly cannot be released back into the ocean a sanctuary is so much better than SeaWorld.” I agree. I think we have to weight the situation and I know that we can come up with something more safe for everyone.

  • cakie says:

    yes they should all be set free back into their natural habitat it is time that animals not be forced to be captives in a trade to entertain us and make greedy men rich with “cheap triks ” and animals sufferings.

  • joyce chapman says:

    these wonderfull creatures should never be held captive for the purpose of entertaining humans please release tilly and all sea animals

  • karen l.claypool says:

    my heart brakes thinking of any animal in captivity i hope that people will stop going to these shows it would shut seaworld down fast i don’t even understand how people can go to the shows to begin with it is so very very cruel i know those whales are in extreme pain and suffering .i hope it stops soon !!!! sincerelykaren l.claypool

  • Aneliese says:

    Even if Tilly cannot be released back into the ocean a sanctuary is so much better than SeaWorld.