After Killing Trainer Last Year, Killer Whale Tilikum Returns to SeaWorld Show

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REUTERS/Richard Baum

Six-ton killer whale Tilikum is back performing Wednesday in the SeaWorld Orlando’s “Believe” show, after killing 40-year-old trainer Dawn Brancheau on Feb. 24, 2010.

With over a year off from shows, SeaWorld’s animal training curator, Kelly Flaherty Clark, says in a prepared statement, “participating in shows is just a portion of Tilikum’s day, but we feel it is an important component of his physical, social and mental enrichment.”

(More on See what made Tilikum snap)

Tilikum, the largest killer whale of the roughly 24 SeaWorld whales, also killed a trainer at a British Columbia aquarium in 1991 and a homeless man who sneaked into SeaWorld’s killer whale complex after hours in 1999, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

The 2010 event forced safety changes within SeaWorld and spawned investigations and lawsuits. As has been going on for the last year, Tilikum is no longer rubbed by hand, but with a high-pressure hose. Also, new guardrails around pool ledges and more accessible safety nets may help in an emergency. New fast-rising false-bottom floors are designed to lift trainers out of the water in less than a minute. Even more changes are coming, SeaWorld says.

SeaWorld trainers no longer perform in the water with killer whales, but that too may change, although nothing concrete has been announced. Either way, trainers aren’t allowed in the water with Tilikum due to his violent history.

(More on Read more about Tilikum’s attack)