Tilikum, SeaWorld Orca, Is Most Influential Living Animal Of 2016: See Top Five List

Tilikum, the orca in the center of the SeaWorld controversy, is the world’s most influential living animal of 2016, according to a poll by Time Magazine.

Tilikum was number two on the list of Top 100, nosing up right behind Cecil the Lion, who led the group.

The list was created by Joel Stein, who did it “because humanity obviously needs a definitive list of the most influential animals in the world.”

To make the list, Stein started the “Animal 100 Board”, a panel consisting of seven top animal experts:

  1. Ingrid Newkirk, president of PETA,
  2. Rich Ross, Animal Planet and Discovery Channel president
  3. Philippe Cousteau, environmentalist
  4. Gene Baur, Farm Sanctuary President
  5. Chelsea Marshall, editor of BuzzFeed Animals
  6. Phil Johnston, “who not only co-wrote Zootopia but also wrote the scene in The Brothers Grimsby in which the characters get stuck in an elephant’s vagina”
  7. Moby, a vegan musician who Stein said, “lives a few houses away from me and was walking by my driveway while I was working on this.”

Interesting that Stein selected Cousteau for the panel, as he just made a statement on Wednesday, asking SeaWorld to release its captive whales into seaside sanctuaries. The Guardian reported on a press conference in which Cousteau challenged a statement by SeaWorld’s CEO Joel Manby, who claimed that no captive orca had survived release. Manby had called the release of Keiko, the Free Willy orca, “a failure.”

Cousteau argued that he personally had witnessed Keiko living a happy life in the wild for five years after he was moved from captivity.

“They need to be released and put back into a place where we can keep an eye on them and they can reconnect with nature.”

Tilikum, the whale on Time’s list, has been ailing with a lung infection and so therefore would likely not be a good candidate for relocation. But it was Tilikum who started the whole debate, as his story was featured in the documentary film Blackfish.

As Time wrote, in explaining why Tilikum was so high on the list:

“The SeaWorld Orca was PETA President Ingrid Newkirk’s top pick. After killing three people, getting his own documentary and more impressively inspiring Tommy Lee to write a letter, the park is ending its orca shows. SeaWorld’s stock price plummeted. ‘He got everyone to open their eyes. We got Southwest to take orcas off their planes. We got Mattel to stop making a SeaWorld Barbie. He was the follow up to Free Willie: ‘Free Tillie.” In March it was discovered that Tilikum now has a fatal respiratory disease that Newkirk blames SeaWorld for and SeaWorld blames respiratory disease on.”

Cecil the Lion was number one likely in part because he didn’t survive after suffering horribly for hours. But Cecil’s death was not in vain. In fact, he changed the world, according to Time. The article describes what followed after the dentist who killed Cecil for sport was publicly shamed.

“Within a few months, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service added two subspecies of lion to the endangered list making hunting of them not okay for U.S. citizens. France banned importing dead lion trophies. And more than 40 airlines will not transport them. Plus, Jimmy Kimmel cried.”

Number Three on the list was a bald eagle named Uncle Sam, who wanted nothing to do with Donald Trump during an attempted P.R. moment.

Number Four was “ten Chinese CRISPR goats.”

“Americans invented CRISPR technology, but they won’t use it because they’re ethical wimps. The Chinese have made super beagles, super pigs, super sheep, super monkeys and—this last one is totally a guess—that eagle that attacked Donald Trump.”

Number Five was the Revenant Bear.

“Didn’t see the movie, but if Time can put Leonardo DiCaprio on its Time 100 list, I can totally put the bear from that movie on the list. Even if there was no actual bear rape in the movie, Revenant Bear brought up the issue of bear rape.”

Catch the rest of the Top 100 Influential Animals here.

(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)