Seaworld’s Tilikum dies at 36

Haley Daniels, Copy Editor

In a March 7, 2011 photo, Kelly Flaherty Clark, left, director of animal training at SeaWorld Orlando, and trainer Joe Sanchez work with killer whales Tilikum and Trua, right, during a training session at the theme park’s Shamu Stadium in Orlando, Fla. SeaWorld Orlando officials say Tilikum, the killer whale that drowned a trainer at the facility last year, is slated to perform for the first time since the death, in the park’s “Believe” show, beginning Wednesday morning, March 30, 2011. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Tilikum, the center of the 2013 documentary “Blackfish” and SeaWorld star, passed away on January 6, 2017. Tilikum passed while under the care of SeaWorld, where he had served for 25 years. The orca whale had been sick for several months, and his death has reignited discussion over the treatment of animals in captivity.

Tilikum was one of the main killer whales that would perform in SeaWorld’s world famous orca shows according to SeaWorld Cares. Over the course of his life, Tilikum was involved in the deaths of three people, one being SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010, according to CNN.

Other than his orca shows, Tilikum was known for being featured as the center of the documentary Blackfish, a compelling film featuring the treatment and life of the killer whales at SeaWorld.

While Tilikum’s cause of death is not yet clear, he was suffering from a “persistent and complicated bacterial lung infection…” since March, according to USA Today.

Although Sea World has not released much information regarding the death of Tilikum, SeaWorld Cares noted that Tilikum died surrounded, “…by the trainers, care staff and veterinarians that provided him around-the-clock world-class care.”

According to SeaWorld Cares and an independent scientific review, Tilikum, estimated to be about 36 years old, was at the high end of life expectancy for male killer whales.

After his death, animal rights groups such as PETA have used the incident to criticize the treatment of animals in captivity.

SeaWorld Cares released the statement, “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.”