A Tale of Two Orcas: Granny(J2) and Tilikum

wporcaAs part of my on-going series of the non-human Dead:

In January 2017, two notable orcas died – Granny (also known as J2) and Tilikum. Both lived tragic lives in different ways. Granny, captured and released because of her age, saw the gradual extinction of her pod due to pollution and overfishing. Tilikum, captured as a calf, killed three people arising from his torment at being a performing killer whale. Both animals were the impetus for humans to reconsider the ethics of using animals for entertainment. The result was an ending of orca shows at major marine parks.

Granny (J2), the Matriarch Orca

Granny, also known as J2, the oldest known orca of the world has died at 105 years old. She went missing on October 2015 and was declared dead in January 2017.  As the matriarch of the J Pod of the Southern Resident Community, Granny let her pod by sharing what she learned about when and where to find food.  (These orcas roam from southeast Alaska to central California and the northeastern part of the Pacific Ocean.)

Granny was captured and released in 1967. Because of the destruction of her original pod and her age of 40 years old at the time, this orca became known to activists. She was the icon for keeping communities of orcas intact in the oceans.

Hail Granny (J2)

Matriarch, Crone

Teacher, Mother

Survivor, Lover

May we honor your life

May we protect your kind

May we learn from you.


Tilikum, the Captive Bull Orca

The largest bull orca in captivity, Tilikum sired 21 calves. He became the first successful grandfather of orcas in captivity. Tilikum died at 35 years old from an ongoing incurable disease of his lungs.

Tilikum’s notoriety came from killing three people at Sea World (accounting for the three of the four deaths by captive orcas). In 2010 after drowning Dawn Brancheau, he became the focual point of why orcas should not be kept captive. The movie “Blackfish” detailed his tragic life from being captured as a calf, through his being bullied by other orcas, to his isolation, rage and depression. Why Tilikum killed became the intense focus of trainers, marine biologists and others. The result was the impetus for ending the performing orca shows at Sea World.

Don Mclean’s “Vincent (Starry, starry night)” is a fitting elegy for Tilikum.


For they could not love you
But still your love was true
And when no hope was left inside
On that starry, starry night
You took your life as lovers often do
But I could have told you Vincent
This world was never meant for one as
beautiful as you


The silver thorn of bloody rose
Lie crushed and broken on the virgin snow
Now I think I know
What you tried to say to me
How you suffered for your sanity
How you tried to set them free
They did not listen they’re not listening still
Perhaps they never will

Copyright © Universal Music Publishing Group



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