Tilikum, the SeaWorld killer whale featured prominently in the controversial documentary “Blackfish,” died on Friday morning.
SeaWorld broke the news 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.
“Like all older animals, Tilikum had faced some very serious health issues,” the statement continued. “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.”
Tilikum was captured in the wild and was originally held in the Sealand park in Canada. He was transported to SeaWorld almost 25 years ago. He was estimated to be 36 years old.
The whale played a major part in “Blackfish,” which argued against keeping and breeding killer whales in captivity. As seen in the documentary, Tilikum was involved in the deaths of three people during his time in captivity, two of whom were his trainers.
Most disturbing of these was the death of Dawn Brancheau, a SeaWorld trainer whom Tilikum dragged off a platform in front of a live crowd and held under the water until she drowned.
Following intense public pressure and a steep decline in profits, SeaWorld announced in November 2015 that they would end their killer whale shows in at least one of their parks, and in March 2016 that they would no longer breed killer whales at any of their parks.