In a statement released Friday, SeaWorld confirmed it was “deeply saddened” to announce the death of Tilikum, the killer whale responsible for the deaths of three people.
“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,” SeaWorld said on its website.
The killer whale was estimated to be about 36 years old and had recently suffered numerous health issues, including a “bacterial lung infection” that is suspected to have led to his death.
“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.”
In 2010, SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau, 40, was killed by Tilikum after he dragged her underwater and drowned her while performing live in front of an audience.
According to The Orlando Sentinel, the tragedy inspired ‘Blackfish,’ a documentary that swayed popular opinion against keeping killer whales in captivity at SeaWorld parks.
The documentary contributed to SeaWorld Entertainment officials announcing in March of 2016 that they would end their Orca breeding program and all theatrical shows involving killer whales.
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