• SeaWorld: Tilikum the killer whale dies after battling bacterial lung infection


    ORLANDO, Fla. - Tilikum the killer whale died Friday morning, according to SeaWorld.

    “Tilikum passed away early this morning, Jan. 6, surrounded by the trainers, care staff and veterinarians that provided him around-the-clock world-class care," SeaWorld officials said in a news release.

    The release said Tilikum faced serious health issues, and that SeaWorld veterinarians were treating a persistent and complicated bacterial lung infection.  

    Photos: Tilikum the killer whale at SeaWorld

    “The suspected bacteria is part of a group of bacteria that is found in water and soil both in wild habitats and zoological settings," the report said.

    “Tilikum’s veterinarians and caretakers delivered various treatment regimens over the course of this illness, which consisted of, among other things, combinations of anti-inflammatories, anti-bacterials, anti-nausea medications, hydration therapy and aerosolized antimicrobial therapy,” SeaWorld said in the release.  

    StorySeaWorld ends killer whale breeding program

    “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 became a part of SeaWorld’s 25 years ago, and was estimated to be about 36 years old.

    © 2018 Cox Media Group.
    SeaWorld Orlando's killer whale Tilikum with his trainers.
    © 2018 Cox Media Group.

    “Tilikum was not born at or collected by SeaWorld. He came to us from Sealand of the Pacific in Canada. SeaWorld has not collected a whale from the wild in nearly 40 years, and this past March we announced the end of the orca breeding program effectively making the whales currently at SeaWorld the last generation of orcas under human care,” SeaWorld said in the release.  

    The report said the official cause of death will not be determined until a necropsy is completed.

    Tilikum was connected to three deaths and was the focus of the “Blackfish” documentary about SeaWorld’s orcas.

    In 2010, veteran SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau was pulled under by Tilikum.

    Personal Story: Trainer Dawn Brancheau

    Brancheau, 40, died after rubbing the 22-foot, 12,000-pound orca. The animal grabbed her ponytail and pulled her into the water in front of about 20 spectators.

    A Sealand trainer fell into a pool with three orcas in February 1991 and it was reported that Tilikum pulled the 20-year-old student to the bottom, where she drowned.

    Tilikum was also connected to the death of a 27-year-old man in 1999 who entered the orca tank after hours.

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