SeaWorld announces death of Orca whale Tilikum

Killer whale Tilikum, right, watches as SeaWorld Orlando trainers take a break during a training session at the theme park's Shamu Stadium in Orlando, Fla., Monday, March 7, 2011.(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

ORLANDO, Fla. (WFLA) – SeaWorld Orlando announced the death of Orca whale Tilikum on Friday. SeaWorld said Tilikum passed away early Friday morning surrounded by trainers, care staff and veterinarians.

Tilikum came to SeaWorld Orlando 25 years ago and is estimated to have been 36-years-old. SeaWorld said Tilikum had faced “very serious” health issues.

Veterinarians were treating him for a “persistent and complicated” bacterial lung infection. SeaWorld said the suspected bacteria is part of a group that is found in water and soul both in the wild and zoological settings.

“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.”

Tilikum was profiled in the movie “Blackfish,” which sparked controversy about how the park cares for its animals. The Orca was blamed for the death of trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010.

Tilikum came to SeaWorld from Sealand of the Pacific in Canada.

SeaWorld has not collected a whale from the wild in nearly 40 years and announced in March the end of their Orca breeding program. The whales currently at SeaWorld are the last generation under human care.

The official cause of death has not been determined.

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