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.