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RIP: Tilikum'The Killer Whaler' Featured in Documentary BLACKFISH Passed Away

Tilikum, the killer whale involved in the deaths of three people, including the 2010 dragging of SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau underwater to her death, and the subject of the documentary “Blackfish” died early this morning, SeaWorld reported on its website.

The Life and Care Of Tilikum At SeaWorld

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.

Tilikum’s veterinarians and caretakers delivered various treatment regimens over the course of this illness, which consisted of, among other things, combinations of anti-inflammatories, anti-bacterials, anti-nausea medications, hydration therapy and aerosolized antimicrobial therapy.

While today is a difficult day for the SeaWorld family, it’s important to remember that Tilikum lived a long and enriching life while at SeaWorld and inspired millions of people to care about this amazing species.

Tilikum’s life will always be inextricably connected with the loss of our dear friend and colleague, Dawn Brancheau. While we all experienced profound sadness about that loss, we continued to offer Tilikum the best care possible, each and every day, from the country’s leading experts in marine mammals.

“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.”

Tilikum became a part of SeaWorld’s family 25 years ago. Estimated to be about 36 years old, Tilikum was near the high end of the average life expectancy for male killer whales according to an independent scientific review.

Tilikum was not born at or collected by SeaWorld. He came to us from Sealand of the Pacific in Canada. SeaWorld has not collected a whale from the wild in nearly 40 years, and this past March we announced the end of the orca breeding program effectively making the whales currently at SeaWorld the last generation of orcas under human care.

The filmmakers acknowledged the death on Twitter, posting “Heartbreaking news. SeaWorld has announced the passing of Tilikum #RIPTilikum #Blackfish”

According to the the filmmakers, the 2013 documentary Blackfish directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite, “tells the story of Tilikum, a performing killer whale that killed several people while in captivity. Along the way, director-producer Gabriela Cowperthwaite compiles shocking footage and emotional interviews to explore the creature’s extraordinary nature, the species’ cruel treatment in captivity, the lives and losses of the trainers and the pressures brought to bear by the multi-billion dollar sea-park industry.

This emotionally wrenching, tautly structured story challenges us to consider our relationship to nature and reveals how little we humans have learned from these highly intelligent and enormously sentient fellow mammals.”

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