Move over, Tilikum; a new captive beastie is about to take your place on the silver screen.
Tilikum is the killer whale at the heart of Blackfish, the searing documentary that exposed the danger posed by killer whales at SeaWorld. Three human deaths have been attributed to the bull orca, and in relating the story of those deaths, the film quietly built a case against the practice of keeping killer whales in captivity. SeaWorld was quick to dismiss the film, but when it proved difficult to dismiss, they set about debunking its claims. Apparently, that didn't work too well, either, as the company's profits have dropped nearly 30% in the year since the film's release.
Now, SeaWorld is partnering with fledgling film studio FOX News Films to produce White Tusk, a film that the company insists is in no way intended to do to the San Diego Zoo what Blackfish did to SeaWorld. White Tusk tells the story of Mila, an African elephant who arrived at the zoo in 2013 from New Zealand — where, in 2012, she killed her trainer while visitors watched in horror.
"Her trainer tripped while exiting her enclosure, and for some reason, Mila picked the woman up with her trunk and crushed her to death," explains director Rex Ployt. "Perhaps it was because Mila spent years in the wretched conditions of a traveling circus, much as Tilikum spent years in wretched conditions at a British Columbia water park. Not that the one has anything to do with the other, of course. Anyway, the zoo closed, and there was talk of euthanizing this dangerous animal. But at the last minute, the San Diego Zoo stepped in and smuggled her into the country amid a cloud of secrecy. Much the way SeaWorld…um, never mind. Anyway, my point is that, if Mila isn't a 'killer elephant,' then Tilikum certainly isn't a killer whale. I mean, he is a killer whale, but he's not a 'killer whale.' In both cases, the problem was trainer error. The important thing is that this story be presented to the public in a full and transparent fashion, preferably before next summer's tourist crush. Did I mention that the Zoo was originally intended to be free to the children of San Diego?"