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Tilikum dead at 36: Blackfish orca passed away says SeaWorld

Tilikum dead at 36: Blackfish orca passed away says SeaWorld

SeaWorld did not give a cause of death but said that the whale had faced serious health issues including a persistent and complicated bacterial lung infection. The most prominent of those was in 2010, when Tilikum - 12,000 pounds and 22 feet long - pulled SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau into the water and killed her.

Soon after Tilikum was moved to SeaWorld in the USA state of Florida where, on July 6, 1999, he was linked to a second death.

"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 announced on its website.

Tilikum became a household name back in 2013 thanks to the popularity of the controversial documentary Blackfish.

SeaWorld San Diego said the show to debut this summer, "Orca Encounter", will feature a killer whale's "natural behaviors" by showing guests how they behave in the wild, how they move, hunt and navigate, what they eat and how they communicate. Last year, after seeing numerous protests by animal rights groups, the theme park declared shutting down its orca breeding. "My heart goes out to our team who cared for him like family", he said.

SeaWorld announced previous year it was ending its theatrical orca shows and breeding program.

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Daniel Dukes, 27, hid in the park after closing and evaded security before climbing naked into the killer whale tank.

In the film, former trainers at SeaWorld criticized the park's practices as harmful for orcas and unsafe for trainers. 'We'd like to send love to Tilikum, ' they wrote. In 1991, he was transferred to SeaWorld Orlando and was there for 25 years. It was the first killing by an orca at a marine park - in fact, it was the first killing of a human by orcas ever reported, as killer whales have never killed a person in the wild.

Tilikum's story launched a public conversation about large marine mammals in captivity, including how to make life in a pool better for these animals. From the moment that he was taken from his ocean family, his life was tragic and filled with pain, as are the lives of the other animals who remain in SeaWorld's tanks and exhibits.

PETA said SeaWorld had not gone far enough.

The whale started a national dialog about keeping killer whales in bondage when he slaughtered his mentor, Dawn Brancheau, in 2010. The whale was near the high end of the average life expectancy for male killer whales according to an independent scientific review. In response, SeaWorld's new CEO Joel Manby announced the company was ending its orca breeding program - making this the last generation of killer whales at its parks.


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