Tilikum, the Killer Whale who was made famous by the 2013 documentary Blackfish and who endured over 33 years of captivity, has died, SeaWorld has confirmed.
Tilikum spent the majority of his captivity at SeaWorld in Orlando. He was involved in the death of three people: Keltie Byrne, a trainer at the now-defunct Sealand of the Pacific in British Columbia in 1991; Daniel P. Dukes, a man trespassing on SeaWorld Orlando’s property in 1999; and Dawn Brancheau, a trainer at SeaWorld in 2010.
Over the course of his 21 years at SeaWorld he was confined to a tank containing 0.0001 percent of the quantity of water that he would traverse in a single day in nature. Following Dawn’s tragic death, Tilikum was kept in a tiny enclosure that limited his ability to swim, communicate with other orcas, and interact with humans even further. He was reported to have been floating listlessly in the water for hours at a time, a behavior never seen in wild orcas.
Today, SeaWorld said in a statement: “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.
“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.”
It added: “Tilikum’s life will always be inextricably connected with the loss of our dear friend and colleague, Dawn Brancheau.”