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Tilikum, The SeaWorld Orca Who Inspired 'Blackfish' Documentary, Has Died

The whale was involved in the death of trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010.

Tilikum, The SeaWorld Orca Who Inspired 'Blackfish' Documentary, Has Died
Magnolia Pictures

Tilikum, the captive orca and subject of the 2013 documentary Blackfish, has passed away, according to a statement issued by SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment.

The whale had been suffering from a persistent bacterial infection, though the exact cause of death has yet to be determined. Tilikum was roughly 36 years old and had been living in captivity since he was captured off the coast of Iceland in 1983. He was most notably involved in the death of trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010. 

"While today is a difficult day for the SeaWorld family, it's important to remember that Tilikum lived a long and enriching life while at SeaWorld and inspired millions of people to care about this amazing species," the statement said.

Blackfish focused on Tilikum as it explored the ethnical and moral implications of killer whale captivity. The film sparked huge public backlash against SeaWorld, and inspired many to call for the boycott of the theme park. This past March, Seaworld finally announced the end of the orca breeding program making the whales currently at SeaWorld the last generation of orcas under human care.  

On Twitter, it's clear that Tilikum's death hit a nerve. 

RIP Tilikum. 

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