By: Regina Wright ~Staff Writer~
Tilikum, the killer whale who was the focus of CNN’s 2013 documentary “Blackfish,” is dying due to an incurable bacterial infection in his lungs.
Tilikum has been increasingly sluggish and still for long periods of time, which is abnormal for orcas, a species that is constantly in motion.
“Despite the best care available, like all aging animals, he battles chronic health issues that are taking a greater toll as he ages,” SeaWorld said on its website.
Residing in SeaWorld’s Orlando, Fla., park, Tilikum is estimated to be 35 years old.
He was captured off the cost of Iceland and, according to SeaWorld’s website, is “the largest marine mammal living in a zoological park,” weighing 12,000 pounds.
“Blackfish” follows the life of Tilikum, offering a portrayal of the allegedly tragic life killer whales endure at SeaWorld.
It claims that Tilikum has mental health issues and aggression because of the small tank he lives in and the nature of being in captivity.
It also follows the story of Tilikum killing two trainers and one trespasser.
The most recent attack came in 2010 when Dawn Brancheau was pulled into the pool with him.
Brancheau was pronounced dead shortly after as a result of the injuries she sustained during the incident.
The documentary caused backlash toward SeaWorld from animal-rights groups, musicians and other celebrities, triggering many protests.
“The film is inaccurate and misleading and, regrettably, exploits a tragedy that remains a source of deep pain for Dawn Brancheau’s family,” SeaWorld said after the documentary was released and protesting began.
“I think SeaWorld is a shady establishment overall and I really don’t understand how they get away with the way they’ve treated animals in the past,” Kelli Moore, a sophomore marketing major, said. “Fortunately, they were exposed by the documentary “Blackfish,” and they will no longer be capturing orcas, but that doesn’t undo the animal cruelty they’ve committed in the past 10-15 years.”
Due to decreasing attendance after “Blackfish,” SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby announced SeaWorld would end the “theatrical killer whale experience” in San Diego by the end of 2016 and introduce a “natural” show. SeaWorld has also announced that it will end its captive breeding of whales.
However, SeaWorld became suspicious of animal-rights activists after the documentary and released in a statement February admitting they had employees pretend to be activists in order to spy on the animal rights organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
Employees posed as activists to “maintain the safety and security of company employees, customers, and animals in the face of credible threats that the company has received,” said SeaWorld.
Paul McComb, the employee whom PETA accused of being a mole, remains on staff at SeaWorld.