Killer whale from CNN 'Blackfish' documentary dies

SeaWorld Killer Whale in 'Blackfish' Documentary Dies

Tilikum, the Orca that killed a SeaWorld trainer in 2010 and was featured in the documentary "Blackfish," which cast a harsh light on killer whales in captivity, died early Friday.

The whale, estimated to be about 36 years old, was suffering from serious health issues, including a persistent bacterial lung infection, but a cause of death would not be known until a necropsy is complete.

"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 CEO Joel Manby said in a statement. "My heart goes out to our team who cared for him like family."

Tilikum was SeaWorld's most prolific male orca, siring 14 calves while he was at SeaWorld Orlando. He arrived at the park about 25 years ago and was noticeable for his size at more than 22 feet and 11,800 pounds.

The creature was born off the coast of Iceland and after his capture was brought to the aquarium Sealand of the Pacific in Canada.

While at Sealand in 1992, Tilikum and two female orcas were responsible for the death of a part-time trainer who slipped and fell into their pool and was submerged by them.

Tilikum was moved to SeaWorld Orlando a short time later, and Sealand later closed.

In 1999, a naked man who had eluded security and sneaked into SeaWorld at night was found dead the next morning draped over Tilikum in a breeding tank in the back of Shamu Stadium.

But it was the 2010 death of SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau by Tilikum after a "Dine with Shamu" show that left the biggest impact on the future of orcas at SeaWorld parks. Brancheau was killed in front of a lie audience while interacting with Tilikum at SeaWorld Orlando.

SeaWorld Entertainment officials announced in March 2016 that the tourist attraction would end its orca breeding program and theatrical shows involving killer whales. The decision came six years after Brancheau's death and three years after the release of the documentary, "Blackfish," which chronicled Tilikum's life and Brancheau's death.

© Killer whale Tilikum appears during its performance in its show at SeaWorld on March 30, 2011, in Or... Image: Killer whale "Tilikum" appears during its performance in its show at Sea World

Tilikum, SeaWorld whale that killed trainer, dead, company says

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Tilikum, an orca that killed a trainer at SeaWorld Orlando in 2010 and was profiled in a documentary that helped sway popular opinion against keeping killer whales in captivity at SeaWorld parks, has died.

SeaWorld officials said Friday that Tilikum died but did not give a cause of death. In a statement to CBS News, the officials said Tilikum had faced serious health issues including a persistent and complicated bacterial lung infection. He was estimated to be 36 years old. A necropsy will be performed, according to the statement.

“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 and CEO Joel Manby said. “My heart goes out to our team who cared for him like family.”

Tilikum was SeaWorld’s most prolific male orca, siring 14 calves while he was at SeaWorld Orlando. He arrived at the park about 25 years ago.

He was noticeable for his size at more than 22 feet and 11,800 pounds.

Tilikum was born off the waters of Iceland and moved to Sealand of the Pacific in Canada after being captured. While at Sealand in 1992, Tilikum and two female orcas were responsible for the death of a part-time trainer who slipped and fell into their pool and was submerged by them.

Tilikum was moved to SeaWorld Orlando a short time later, and Sealand later closed.

In 1999, a naked man who had eluded security and sneaked into SeaWorld at night was found dead the next morning draped over Tilikum in a breeding tank in the back of Shamu Stadium.

But it was the 2010 death of SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau by Tilikum after a “Dine with Shamu” show that left the biggest impact on the future of orcas at SeaWorld parks.

Brancheau was interacting with Tilikum before a live audience at SeaWorld Orlando when he pulled her from a platform by her arm and held her under the water. An autopsy report said Brancheau drowned but also suffered severe trauma, including multiple fractures.

SeaWorld Entertainment officials announced in March 2016 that the tourist attraction would end its orca breeding program and theatrical shows involving killer whales. The decision came six years after Brancheau’s death and three years after the release of the documentary “Blackfish,” which chronicled Tilikum’s life and Brancheau’s death.

The documentary argued that killer whales, when in captivity, become more aggressive toward humans and each other. After the documentary played at the Sundance Film Festival and aired on CNN, several entertainers pulled out of planned performances at SeaWorld parks and animal rights activists increased their demonstrations outside the parks.

Attendance at SeaWorld parks dipped, the company faced falling profits and Southwest Airlines ended its 25-year relationship with the theme park company.

In March, SeaWorld’s CEO acknowledged that the public’s attitude had changed about keeping killer whales captive and that the company would end its orca breeding program.

“We needed to move where society was moving,” Manby said.


Tilikum, the infamous orca that killed a SeaWorld trainer, is dead

Tilikum, the most famous killer whale in the United States, died Friday after a year-long illness and quarter century of performances streaked with violence.

The many-tonned orca — believed to be 36 years old and linked to the deaths of three people in that time — likely succumbed to a lung infection early in the morning, according to a statement released by SeaWorld.

The whale died at the Orlando marine park where he spent most of his life, “surrounded by the trainers, care staff and veterinarians that provided him around-the-clock world-class care,” the statement reads.

Tilikum had been sick since last spring, when a SeaWorld veterinarian, voice cracking, warned that the whale’s bacterial infection was “chronic and progressive.”

SeaWorld eulogized a “long and enriching life” that “inspired millions of people.” Others noted a dark current in the whale’s biography.

“From the moment he was taken from his ocean family, his life was tragic and filled with pain,” reads a statement from PETA, one of many groups that Tilikum inspired to fight against whale captivity.

Tilikum “has shouldered a fraught history, emerging as the symbol of both orcas’ elegance and their capacity for violence,” The Washington Post’s Yanan Wang wrote in a profile of the whale last March.

Born wild in the icy waters of west Iceland, Wang wrote, he was first netted in 1983 — in an era when killer whales were coveted by marine parks and adored by crowds.

Tilikum was taken from the ocean to a concrete tank, Wang wrote, held there for a year before being shipped to British Columbia to perform at Sealand of the Pacific.

A trainer told CNN that Tilikum was the easiest to work with in Sealand’s stable. He was virile, too, siring many calves before 1991, when a part-time trainer slipped into the orca tank.

A whale grabbed 20-year-old Keltie Byrne’s foot and pulled her underwater, Wang wrote. The whales thrashed her around the tank. She screamed until she drowned.

Sealand never recovered. “They closed in 1992, a year after selling their killer whales to SeaWorld,” which reportedly wanted Tilikum for breeding at its state-of-the-art theme park, Wang wrote.

Tilikum spent seven years in Orlando before another body turned up in his tank.

In 1999, 27-year-old Daniel Dukes was released from a county jail and apparently snuck into the park at night. He was found drowned and draped across Tilikum’s back, Wang reported.

Still, the whale drew crowds, even after February 2010, when SeaWorld’s star trainer and spokesmodel Dawn Brancheau leaned over Tilikum’s tank and was grabbed in his jaws by her hair.

She was thrashed in the water, like Byrnes before her. Like the others, she died.

Yet the show went on. Tilikum returned to public performances after a year-long hiatus, Wang reported.

His public image did not begin to change — and SeaWorld’s with it — until the documentary “Blackfish” was released in 2013.

Largely centered around Tilikum and his body count, the film portrayed the whale as a victim of captivity — made “psychotic,” as one researcher put it.

SeaWorld called the movie propaganda. But within a year, a backlash against the park had caused SeaWorld’s attendance to fall and its stock prices to dive.

Southwest Airlines ended a 26-year-old partnership with the marine park. The company’s chief executive resigned. Animal rights groups called for Tilikum’s freedom, while lawmakers talked of banning captive whale breeding.

In 2014, SeaWorld announced that it would the stop the practice voluntarily.

“Society is changing,” the organization said. Tilikum’s “will be the last generation of orcas at SeaWorld.”

The whale had not performed since his illness was announced last year, though the park posted regular reports on his health for his fans.

“Tilikum has some good days and some not so good days,” reads an update from June.

Tilikum died much older than most captive orcas, SeaWorld said Friday. The Post has noted that wild whales live much longer.

He sired at least 21 calves before his death, 14 of them at SeaWorld.

The company still owns 28 orcas, among its parks in Orlando, San Antonio, Spain and San Diego. The San Diego park will hold its last killer whale show this weekend.

0 Response to "Killer whale from CNN 'Blackfish' documentary dies"