In Orlando, Florida, the killer whale, Tilikum who killed a trainer at SeaWorld in 2010 and was profiled in the “Blackfish” documentary about keeping whales in captivity, died Friday morning.
According to SeaWorld officials, CbsNews reports Tilikum, the 22-foot whale weighing 11,800 pounds, had been suffering from an antibiotic resistant bacterial lung infection. The whale was estimated to be 36 years-old and was captured off the waters of Iceland and moved to Sealand of the Pacific in Canada until 1992. Tilikum and two female orcas were said to have been responsible for the death of a part-time trainer who accidentally fell into their pool and was drowned by the whales.
In 2010, SeaWorld trainer, Dawn Brancheau had been interacting with the whale in front of a live audience in a show called “Dine With Shamu” when Telikum pulled her from the platform by her arm and held her under the water resulting in Brancheau’s death. Three years later, the documentary “Blackfish” was released, which chronicled the death of the trainer and the whale’s restrictive life, contending that orcas held in captivity become aggressive to humans and each other. Since the publication of the documentary, animal advocates have continued to demonstrate outside of the park. Finally, in March 2016, SeaWorld Entertainment announced the closing of theatrical shows and their killer whale breeding program.
In a press release on Friday morning, SeaWorld’s CEO and President Joel Manby released the following statement:
“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. My heart goes out to our team who cared for him like family.”
Rest in peace Tilikum. You are finally free.
(Photo of orca via Sea World Facebook.)
Watch a small piece of Blackfish and the heartbreaking story of orcas kept captive here: