Tilikum, The Whale From The Documentary Blackfish, Has Died

Photo: Manny O Productions/REX/Shutterstock.
Tilikum, the orca whale from the 2013 documentary Blackfish, has died. He was estimated to be about 36 years old. According to Time, the whale, who spanned 22 feet and weighed 11,800 pounds, passed away at his home in SeaWorld Orlando after battling a bacterial lung infection. Tilikum, who performed at SeaWorld for 25 years, was responsible for the 2010 death of his trainer Dawn Brancheau, along with two other people. The Blackfish documentary focused on Tilikum's captivity and the part it played in the tragic deaths. The film argued that keeping Tilikum and other large animals in captivity makes them more aggressive toward humans. That criticism of how SeaWorld treated its whale performers resulted in major changes at the parks. Two years ago, the SeaWorld in San Diego announced it would phase out its killer whale shows in 2017. The company soon followed suit, announcing last March that it was phasing out its orca shows entirely at all 11 locations, along with its orca breeding. They plan to replace the shows with "new, inspiring, natural orca encounters" that emphasize "orca enrichment, exercise and overall health." In a statement, SeaWorld said it was "deeply saddened" by the passing of Tilikum, but that he had “inspired millions of people to care about this amazing species.” In 2016, Tillikum was named PETA's first-ever Animal of the Year.

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