ORLANDO, FL. (NEWS 1130) – Tilikum, the orca whale that was the subject of the controversial documentary ‘Blackfish,’ has passed away at SeaWorld. He was 36.
“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,” the facility said in a statement. “Like all older animals, Tilikum had faced some very serious health issues. While the official cause of death will not be determined until the necropsy is completed, the SeaWorld veterinarians were treating a persistent and complicated bacterial lung infection. The suspected bacteria is part of a group of bacteria that is found in water and soil both in wild habitats and zoological settings.”
Tilikum sired 14 calves since arriving in Florida about 25 years ago. He was about 22 feet long and weighed nearly 12,000 pounds.
The death of staffer Dawn Brancheau in front of a live audience in 2010 sparked a discussion about animals being kept in captivity. The whale pulled her down from a platform and held her under water.
“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,” says President & CEO of SeaWorld Joel Manby. “My heart goes out to our team who cared for him like family.”
Tilikum was transferred to the US after living at Sealand of the Pacific near Victoria.