Tilikum, SeaWorld’s Famous Orca and Star of ‘Blackfish’ Documentary, Has Died
One of SeaWorld’s most popular orcas, Tilikum, who killed his trainer in 2010, has died. The 36-year-old orca died surrounded by the care staff, veterinarians, and trainers at SeaWorld. The death of Tilikum is currently unknown, however he was being treated for a “persistent and complicated bacterial lung infection” at the time of his death.
The organization is awaiting necropsy results before they can determine a cause of death. “Tilikum had, and will continue to have, a special place in the hearts of the SeaWorld family, as well as the millions of people all over the world that he inspired,” SeaWorld President and CEO Joel Manby said in a statement. “My heart goes out to our team who cared for him like family.” Tilikum first came to SeaWorld in 1991 after living at Sealand in Canada. The orca was the main star of the 2012 documentary, Blackfish, which focused on Tilikum’s life in captivity and the death of SeaWorld trainer, Dawn Brancheau, during a show with the orca. Brancheau and Tilikum were participating in a “Dine with Shamu” show when Tilikum pulled Brancheau from the platform by her ponytail into the water. Brancheau’s death was ruled accidental by a medical examiner, claiming the 40-year-old died from a mix of drowning and traumatic injuries. SeaWorld faced major backlash after the death of Brancheau. They ultimately announced it would end its orca breeding program and shows involving killer whales in March 2016. “Tilikum’s life will always be inextricably connected with the loss of our dear friend and colleague, Dawn Brancheau,” SeaWorld wrote in a statement on their blog. “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. It’s important to remember that Tilikum lived a long and enriching life while at SeaWorld.” Many people on social media are sharing that Tilikum is finally free including, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), who frequently criticized SeaWorld for their treatment of the orcas. SeaWorld needs to release all the remaining animals from its parks – the orcas, beluga whales, bottlenose dolphins, sea lions, walruses, penguins and others — and rehabilitate them back into nature or into coastal sanctuaries where they can spend the rest of their lives in as natural a setting as possible,” PETA Senior Vice President Lisa Lange said in a statement. While in captivity, Tilikum bred 21 times with 11 of his children dying before him.
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