A well-known killer whale that had violently killed one of its SeaWorld trainers and two other people died Friday after battling a bacterial lung infection, the marine park said.
The orca named Tilikum was featured in the 2013 documentary, Blackfish, which was critical of SeaWorld keeping killer whales in captivity. In 2010, Tilikum dragged SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau into his pool and thrashed her around until she died.
Tilikum had become seriously ill from a “persistent and complicated” bacterial infection in March 2016, SeaWorld said. He died early Friday in SeaWorld's Orlando park surrounded by trainers and veterinarians, according to the company. Tilikum was believed to be about 36 years old.
SeaWorld said Tilikum “lived a long and enriching life” at SeaWorld and “inspired millions of people to care about this amazing species.”
“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,” SeaWorld President Joel Manby said in a statement. “My heart goes out to our team who cared for him like family.”
PETA, an animal rights group, repeated its call for SeaWorld to release all of its animals into the wild or coastal sanctuaries. The organization said Tilikum lived a life of "pain" while in captivity. "F rom the moment 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 in a statement. "Tilikum must be the last orca to die inside a SeaWorld amusement park."