Tilikum, the largest killer whale in captivity, is the main focus of the movie "Blackfish." Sadly, it paints him as an aggressive orca willfully lashing out at people without telling the true story behind the three deaths to which he is linked.
The movie also glosses over the other six killer whales that call SeaWorld Orlando home and the fact that all but two of them (including Tili) were born in captivity and know no other home than the park. While releasing them sounds like a romantic notion, they'd likely have no idea what to do since their lives have been spent in human care as ambassadors for their species.
I recommend going beyond "Blackfish" and learning more about all the killer whales who live at the park. I've been fortunate enough to watch the youngest, Makaio, grow from an infant to a healthy, happy, intelligent three-year-old.
Here are the whales in the SeaWorld Orlando pod. You can see them daily in the shows and the underwater viewing area:
Katina: The matriarch of the pod. Like Tili, she was captured in the wild, and she's a superstar in the shows and a supermom to her babies. She's had seven babies, of which Makaio is the latest.
Makaio: Katina's youngest calf and a playful little guy who performs regularly in One Ocean, even though his performance isn't nearly as polished as Mom's yet.
Kayla: Born at the San Antonio Park, she also spent time in Ohio and is now a fixture at the Orlando park.
Nalani: Another of Katina's youngsters, born in 2006.
Malia: Yet another of the Orlando pod's girls, born at the park in 2007.
Trua: A sweet and playful boy, born in 2005. He's very interactive with the people watching when he's in the underwater viewing area. You'll often see him in there with his grandpa, Tilikum, and sometimes he splashes with Tili in the One Ocean show.
Tilikum: The whale made infamous by "Blackfish." Even though the movie claims that he lives a life of isolation in one tiny pool, he actually moves between several areas and spend a lot of time with Trua. He still does a splash segment in the shows, but only when he feels like performing, so you never know if you'll luck into seeing the big, gorgeous guy. Just in case, you can see him perform in the video accompanying this article.
Look beyond what the movie tells you and meet the entire orca pod. Most weren't torn from their homes because they were born in human care. While nothing can beat seeing orcas, or any other animals, in their true habitat, SeaWorld offers the chance to see these magnificent creatures up close and to learn about where they live firsthand instead of going solely by what a movie says.