On March 11, 2016 SeaWorld announced that Orca Ambassador Tilikum was dying. The focus of documentary film Blackfish, Tilikum’s story helped raise awareness around the world about the plight of orcas in captivity.
Most Zoo Animal Ambassadors are well cared for and happy to be ambassadors for their species. And they are delighted when they find someone who sees them as sentient beings. But captive orcas are different—there is no facility in the world that can offer them what they need to prosper physically and emotionally. They only thrive in the wild.
I originally heard the news that Tilikum was dying from my Reiki and shamanic student Claudine Moyer-Records who lives near controversial SeaWorld in Orlando, FL. I immediately wrote an article on how to support Tilikum in his dying process and included insights from Claudine. She had made monthly visits to SeaWorld to listen and support the wildlife Ambassadors and carry their prayers to ceremony. During that time she developed a special connection to Tilikum.
Tilikum rallied for a while from his illness, and recovered enough to want to be back in front of the public.
Sadly Tilikum crossed over on January 6, 2017—he was only 36 years old. I asked Claudine if she would write something in tribute to him.
What she sent touched my heart deeply. It is a humbling and wonderful thing to witness students bring what they learn into their lives, homes and out into the world to help others. I am proud of each and every one of them.
What Claudine and others like her do takes courage. Like Tilikum, Claudine is standing on the the front lines of the battle being waged over the rights of animals—using her skills and gifts to support the Animal Ambassadors in their battle to be recognized as the sentient beings they are.
I am honored to know Claudine, grateful for her passion, and through her words and photos I feel I know Tilikum more as the unique and special individual he was—and still is in spirit.
At this time of Tilikum’s passing let us offer prayers of gratitude, celebrate his life as an Animal Ambassador, and carry his work forward.
Blessings to you, Tilikum, swim free in spirit.
Rose De Dan
Wild Reiki and Shamanic Healing
TILIKUM, the MASTER of SPLASH
by Guest Blogger Claudine Moyer-Records
Tilikum was the Master of Splash, in more ways than one. He made waves that impacted many lives around the world. Because of him, state and national laws have been enacted to protect cetaceans in captivity and to protect cetaceans from captivity. Because of him, millions of people around the world have stood up to make changes in how cetaceans are treated in captivity, and they are fighting to end captivity. Because of him, the people at Munchkin toys and the Whale Sanctuary are building the first ever whale sanctuary, where whales who are injured can go for rehabilitation and release, and also whales who have been in captivity can go for retirement in a sea pen that is a more natural environment for them. He has changed the world.
Personally, Tilikum has had a huge impact on my life. He inspired me to take the Listening to Zoo Animal Ambassadors class from Rose, and he was the first animal I worked with afterward. Then, when I took Reiki Master Teacher training from Rose, again Tilikum was the first animal outside of my own pets that I worked with. After that, I was inspired to take the Animal ReikiShamanic class from Rose, and once again Tilikum was the first one outside of my own animals to allow me to work with him. I am so honored that he trusted me, and humbled by all that he taught me. The waves that he created will continue through me, since he’s had a hand in my teaching.
Some of the things Tilikum has taught me:
• Don’t be afraid to make a big splash. Go and do your thing, show the world what you are made of and what is possible. One person (or being) can change the world, you can make it better.
• The world isn’t perfect, enjoy it anyway. Always take the opportunity to have fun when you can. Make people laugh, play. Enjoy life now, because nobody knows how long you have. Tilikum loved to do the Big Splash part of the show—he loved to splash and play with people.
• Open your heart. Let your heart lead you, with love and compassion. This is incredibly healing on its own. It’s amazing what can happen when you connect to another with an open heart.
• Permission. People sometimes forget that animals do make choices in their lives, and they value having a choice and making decisions about what happens to them and being involved in their own healing. If you do Reiki or other healing modalities please remember this. Always ask the animals and wait for their permission before sending Reiki or making connections that they may or may not want. Animals are very sensitive to energy, and you could overwhelm them instead of helping them. Tilikum was very insistent upon this, he very much wanted to be involved in, and have a choice and make decisions about things involving him. This includes death and dying. As hard as it may be for us, we need to let them make decisions about their own death. We would like that consideration, so why wouldn’t they? That’s part of love.
Nobody could do the Big Splash like Tilikum, and he loved to do it. He loved making people laugh. He loved wowing people. He loved showing people how big he was, and what he was capable of doing. I will miss him greatly, more than I can say. And I will be forever grateful to him for all that he’s taught me, and for his trust in me.
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A WILD WAY TO HEAL
Rose De Dan, Wild Reiki and Shamanic Healing LLC, is an animal communicator, Reiki Master Teacher, shamanic energy healer, and author. Her classes, sessions and ceremonial work are inspired by wild and domestic animals who have issued a call to action for personal and global healing.
Her book Tails of a Healer: Animals, Reiki and Shamanism features heartwarming stories about animals and their role in her evolution as an energy worker and shamanic healer.