SeaWorld reported Friday that Tilikum, the killer whale blamed for the deaths of 3 people, including SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau, has died.
Tilikum was featured in the CNN documentary “Blackfish,” released in 2013.
SeaWorld’s website stated Friday:
“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.”
Last March, SeaWorld disclosed that the orca may have been dying. He was roughly 35 at the time. The water park also announced at that time that it would no longer house those types of whales.
“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 SeaWorld president and CEO Joel Manby. “My heart goes out to our team who cared for him like family.”
The company has faced heavy public scrutiny for its treatment of orcas after the CNN documentary was released.
The Blackfish twitter account posted a tribute to Tilikum just after his death:
— Blackfish (@blackfishmovie) January 6, 2017
The film described the horrifying treatment of orcas in water parks across the world, documenting Tilikum’s sometimes violent behavior as a prime example of the results of their entrapment. The SeaWorld operator responded to the film by calling it false, “emotionally manipulative” propaganda.
PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) tweeted a tribute to the dead orca as well:
— PETA (@peta) January 6, 2017
The tribute featured a photo of the whale that said “R.I.P. Tilikum Dead after three decades of misery.”
SeaWorld also tweeted a tribute to Tilikum:
— SeaWorld (@SeaWorld) January 6, 2017
The orca had spent 25 years with the water park.