The star of the Blackfish documentary, and possibly the most talked about killer whale in the world, has sadly passed away.
Tilikum is the well-known and loved orca who was made famous following the controversial documentary which uncovered the truth behind the trainer and orca interaction at Seaworld, and how keeping the beautiful creatures in captivity affects their health.
SeaWorld has just announced the whale’s death through a statement on their website which claimed that he had “faced some very serious health issues” and suffered from a “complicated bacterial lung infection”.
Tilikum was previously in the news after being implicated in the death of a SeaWorld trainer, Dawn Brancheau, in 2010, after she was dragged into the water by her ponytail and drowned.
The trainer’s death sparked the making of a documentary called Blackfish, released in 2013, which caused SeaWorld to come under fire for their treatment of orcas in captivity.
Tilikum, who was estimated to be 36 when he died, had spent his entire life in captivity, including 25 years at SeaWorld, causing his health to be in the news a number of times.
Medical reports had previously shown that he had a bad bacterial infection in his lungs which was resistant to antibiotics, due to the extensive volume of antibiotics and medication that had been fed to him during his life in captivity. Sadly, the lung infection is what finally ended his life.
This is the official statement from Seaworld on Tilikum’s death:
“The SeaWorld family is deeply saddened to announce that one of its most well-known orcas, Tilikum, has passed away. Tilikum passed away early this morning, January 6, surrounded by the trainers, care staff and veterinarians that provided him around-the-clock world-class care.
While today is a difficult day for the SeaWorld family, it’s important to remember that Tilikum lived a long and enriching life while at SeaWorld and inspired millions of people to care about this amazing species.
Tilikum’s life will always be inextricably connected with the loss of our dear friend and colleague, Dawn Brancheau. While we all experienced profound sadness about that loss, we continued to offer Tilikum the best care possible, each and every day, from the country’s leading experts in marine mammals.
Tilikum became a part of SeaWorld’s family 25 years ago. Estimated to be about 36 years old, Tilikum was near the high end of the average life expectancy for male killer whales according to an independent scientific review.”