Tilikum > Tilikum: illness + collapsed dorsal fin + missing / fractured teeth

Tilikum is ill. As Jeffrey Ventre, MD and John Jett, Ph.D, explain in Keto & Tilikum Express the Stress of Orca Captivity, Tilikum's broken and drilled teeth seed his blood stream with bacteria. If he were to unfortunately die, it would likely be from a type of sepsis or tissue infectionthe cause of death for Kalina, the “Original Baby Shamu” (the first killer whale born and raised in captivity at SeaWorld) who died of Bacterial Septicemia in October of 2010.

Now that I have transformed Amber Doll's severely damaged silicone flesh, PVC skeleton, and steel-infused joints into a small replica Tilikum, I'd like to point out two comparison details that reflect symptoms of stresses in orcas in captivity. (both reference Ventre and Jett's paper)

Left: Tilikum, Right: Amber Doll > Tilikum Days Seven / Eight

Collapsed Dorsal Fin
Quoting from Ventre and Jett's paper:
In the ocean, lateral torisonal, and compressive forces generated by moving water typically sculpt erect dorsal fins. It is known that in humans, healthy connective tissue and muscle and bone will adapt to loading by becoming stronger. In all likelihood, these collapsed dorsal fins are caused by increased hours of surface floating (or slow circle-swimming) and a removal of those forces. This process is accentuated in male orcas, whose fins grow much taller than females. Collapsed fins like those above, are very rare in the wild.

Left: Tilikum's Jaw, Middle: Dremeling Amber Doll's Skull into Tilikum's Teeth (Day Ten), Right: Amber Doll > Tilikum Day Ten

Broken and Drilled Teeth
Quoting from Ventre and Jett's paper:
Captive orcas break their teeth or horizontal steel bars and concrete, sometimes exposing the pulp of the tooth. This pulp is drilled out via modified "pulpotomy." Subsequently, the animals require lifelong daily teeth flushings to combat food plugging, as these open holes are a direct route for bacteria to enter the bloodstream. The  prevalence of broken teeth increases with age. Tilikum has lost the majority of teeth on the lower jaw. The decimated jaws of captive orcas are a carefully managed topic from a public relations standpoint, with tooth flushing explained to visitors as "superior dental care."

On Day Six of Amber Doll > Tilikum I spoke with Jeffrey Ventre, former Senior Trainer at Shamu Stadium (1987-1995) and Samantha Berg, also a former Sea World Trainer (1990-93) who was working at Shamu Stadium the day Tilikum arrived at SeaWorld Orlando. Links to the resources and projects they kindly mentioned during our Skyped conversation are below (in order mentioned). Video of our conversation is embedded below (from the Amber Doll > Tilikum album on Vimeo). A higher quality version will be available soon.


Before + After

Left: Amber and Doll (Miami, 2008)
RIght: Amber Doll > Tilikum, December 20, 2011

After working nineteen hours straight on Days Seven and Eight, on Day Nine I rested. Yesterday, on Day Ten, I completed the Amber Doll > Tilikum transformation.

Day Ten's blog post is coming soon, as is a follow-up to my conversation with former SeaWorld Trainers turned activists, Jeffrey Ventre and Samantha Berg.

Day Six Streaming Videos

Today I continued to use Amber Doll's damaged PVC skeleton to finish Tilikum's skeleton. I adhered pieces of the the foam filler that made up her cheast cavity, thighs, arms, and calves to the skeleton to start fleshing out the shape of Tilikum. I then began to adhere pieces of her silicone to the foam filler—all on my doll disassembly/whale assembly table. After Sunday's ban on Ustream, I have lasted five days on Livestream. All four streaming clips are below (also on Vimeo):

At 2pm cst Jeffrey Ventre MD, former Senior Trainer at Shamu Stadium (1987-1995) Skyped in to Amber Doll > Tilikum. Ventre is co-author of of the critical paper Keto and Tilikum Express the Stress of Orca Captivity (along with John S. Jett, Visiting Research Professor at Stetson University). Jeffrey Ventre worked with Tilikum during 1994-95 and now takes an evidence-based approach to marine mammal activism.

At 2:30pm cst Samantha Berg, also a former Sea World Trainer (1990-93) joined the conversation. Berg was working at Shamu Stadium the day Tilikum arrived at SeaWorld Orlando after he was moved from SeaLand of the Pacific (Victoria Canada) where he was involved in the death of trainer, Keltie Byrne. Berg is now an acupuncturist and the owner of an acupuncture center in Palmer, Alaska.

I have a great number of links to post following-up on the conversation and will do so on Sunday. In the meantime, I have posted just a few below today's streaming videos. (The first hour of streamed video was not recorded but I am shooting with five cameras so a long-form edited version of the performance will be available for exhibition soon.)

Skyping with Jeffrey Ventre and Samantha Berg


Links following-up on my conversation with Jeffrey Ventre and Samantha Berg:
Dorsal Fin Collapse in Killer Whale Explained

Voice of the Orcas

Death at SeaWorld

Former Trainer Says Killer Whale Captivity Causes Attacks