Infamous SeaWorld orca Tilikum, who was involved in the deaths of three people and heavily featured in the 2013 documentary Blackfish, passed away this morning.
SeaWorld made the announcement in a statement on the company's website, saying the cause of death has not yet been determined because a necropsy still needs to be completed.
However, over the past few months SeaWorld veterinarians were treating a bacterial lung infection, using a combination of anti-inflammatories, anti-bacterials, anti-nausea medications, hydration therapy and aerosolized anti-microbial 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.
SeaWorld President & CEO Joel Manby also commented on this morning's news, saying "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."
Back in March of 2016, SeaWorld announced that it would end its controversial orca breeding program. SeaWorld’s existing population of 28 orcas across three theme parks will live out their lives in their current environments, but will not be replaced as they pass away.
Tilikum was not born at or collected by SeaWorld. He was transferred from Sealand of the Pacific in South Oak Bay, British Columbia, in 1992.