Malia: a Life Full of Loss
By Christina Colvin
Malia has lived her entire life in a tank. The blank walls of a pool must have been one of the first features of the world the young orca ever knew, an unfathomable difference from the miles and miles of ocean her wild relatives understand as their domain. She deserves to know more of life than the death and monotony that have characterized her existence so far.
Malia was born on March 12, 2007, to Taima and Tilikum at SeaWorld Orlando. She is the pair’s third child. Before Malia was born, Taima showed aggression toward her two other children, Sumar and Tekoa. When each of the brothers were only a few months old, Taima attacked them. Once, she even chased Sumar into the “slide-out” area to attack him.
Taima’s disturbing behavior might be attributed to the trauma of losing her own mother and sister while they all lived in captivity. Following the death of her family, Taima developed a reputation as an unruly whale. Her aggression might also be a result of the very young age at which she gave birth. In the wild, female orcas typically become mothers when they are 12 – 15 years old. Taima was eight when Sumar was born and only eleven when she gave birth to Tekoa.
A few months after her birth, Malia was introduced to her father, Tilikum, with whom she got along well.
Tilikum sired many children for SeaWorld, and Malia was one of the few he actually met. Three years later, Tilikum would gain terrible recognition for killing trainer Dawn Brancheau.
That same year, 2010, Malia’s mother Taima died while in labor with her fourth calf. (The calf was stillborn.) And a few months later, Malia would lose her close companion Kalina, with whom she’d spent much of her time and who had sometimes acted as her surrogate mother after Taima died.
Malia has experienced so much loss: first her mother, then her friend, then Tilikum, her father, who died in 2017. We might detect in Malia’s history a tragic echo of Taima’s experience of the death of her family members, the experience that may have broken her spirit.
It is too late for us to help Taima, but there is still hope for Malia’s future. She could have the chance to experience more than a barren tank and the loss of her friends and family. It is time for Malia to experience a seaside sanctuary.