The latest word is that Tilikum will not be euthanized in retaliation for being associated with his third human death. Of course, if the SeaWorld officials did decide to euthanize him, this raises several problems, not the least of which are the publicity and the mechanics of carrying out this animal’s demise.
This realist (me) has decided that SeaWorld avoided the “euthanization problem” in the case of Tilikum due to two reasons, and two reasons only: first, the public outrage would be beyond anything they could handle, deal with and recover (financially) from and second; how the hell do you kill a healthy 6-ton whale, and how do you dispose of its body before the neighbors file “quality of life” complaints with the local authorities?
First: killing Tilikum would not easy. Since Tilikum is not a land-dwelling mammal, electrocution is out, although there is precedent for using this method to kill other large and opinionated animals. In his zeal to destroy his former friend and collaborator, Nicola Tesla, Thomas Edison demonstrated the dangers of alternating current electricity by killing an adult female elephant that had killed seven people for a variety of reasons, such as giving her a lit cigarette, which she held with her trunk:
Let’s just say that SeaWorld officials use the most American of options; explosives. Clearly, euthanizing him using explosives is not possible nor (in my opinion) humane, although there is precedent for using this cruel method:
So I spent a little time searching the literature and found a more feasible and humane euthanasia plan [PDF]:
Next, in this hypothetical situation, after Tilikum was dead, there is the problem of how to dispose of his body before the (human, but not necessarily humane) neighbors and SeaWorld visitors file “quality of life” complaints with the local authorities. Again, being Americans, authorities would likely opt for the “American plan” .. erm, explosives:
Of course, it’s always possible that local officials might be somewhat sensible — I know, this is unlikely since they live in Floriduh — and instead opt for one of a myriad of other methods for dealing with the rotting carcass. Perhaps they would leave the body to .. erm .. “become one with the elements” on its own. In that case, there is the self-exploding problem:
So .. as you’ve seen, the hypothetical death of Tilikum raises some rather perplexing issues that the local authorities and the SeaWorld officials are incapable of dealing with. Thus, it is my contention that Tilikum’s sheer size and popularity has likely saved his life. Let’s just hope he doesn’t die of “health issues” that conveniently appear in the next few years .. he is only 30 years old, and orcas live to be 90 years old in the wild — and we all know that wild animals have a shorter life span in the wild than they do in captivity! (although, not in the case of orcas, which have an average captive life span of only four years).