Tilikum, SeaWorld killer whale, focus of 'Blackfish' movie, dies

ORLANDO, Fla. - Tilikum, an orca that killed a trainer at SeaWorld Orlando in 2010, has died.

Sea World says in a statement posted online that Tilikum died Friday. A cause of death had not yet been determined, though the orca was being treated for a persistent bacterial infection. He was estimated to be 36 years old.

SeaWorld announced the death of orca Tilikum on Friday. Read the company's full statement below:

"The SeaWorld family is deeply saddened to announce that one of its most well-known orcas, Tilikum, has passed away." the theme park said in a statement. "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."

Tilikum was profiled in the documentary "Blackfish," which helped sway popular opinion against keeping killer whales in captivity at SeaWorld parks.

As SeaWorld's most prolific male orca, he sired 14 calves in the 23 years he was at SeaWorld Orlando.

Criticism over keeping orcas captive grew after Tilikum grabbed trainer Dawn Brancheau following a "Dine with Shamu" show and pulled her into the pool, killing her.

Tilikum was also involved in the deaths of two other people in the 1990s.

“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,” said President & CEO of SeaWorld Joel Manby. “My heart goes out to our team who cared for him like family.”

 

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