The orca was the focus of the controversial 2013 documentary
Tilikum, the killer whale at the centre of the Blackfish film, has passed away, it has been confirmed.
The 2013 documentary Blackfish told the story of Tilikum, an orca (or killer whale) living in captivity at US theme park SeaWorld who had been involved in the deaths of three individuals, including his trainer in 2010. The film raised questions about the effects and ethics of keeping killer whales in captivity at the US attraction.
It has now been confirmed that Tilikum, thought to be 36 years old, died early Friday morning (January 6) at SeaWorld in Orlando. The company says that he died surrounded by trainers, care staff and vets and that the cause of death is not yet known, although he had been treated for a “persistent and complicated bacterial lung infection” recently.
“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. “My heart goes out to our team who cared for him like family.”
PETA has tweeted: “R.I.P. Tilikum. Dead after three decades of misery.”
In March 2016, SeaWorld announced it is to end its orca breeding programme, meaning the current whales at its three US locations will be the last in captivity.