09 January, 2017
SeaWorld in San Diego, California, will host its final killer whale performance on January 8, just two days after Tilikum, the whale that killed a park trainer and was the subject of the controversial documentary "Blackfish" that highlighted SeaWorld's treatment of captive whales, died.
SeaWorld said in a statement that the killer whale had a "persistent and complicated bacterial lung infection" before his death.
Tilikum became a household name in 2010 when he killed SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau during a performance.
SeaWorld said Monday will see a new educational orca program at its San Diego park, with seating set up around the killer whale underwater viewing area for visitors to watch a presentation on the animals.
SeaWorld ended its orca breeding program previous year amid widespread criticism of parks that keep the creatures in captivity. The principal subject of that documentary, an orca named Tilikum, died Friday at the age of 36.
CNN featured Tilikum in a 2013 documentary "Blackfish" that covered those fatalities and also sought to show the impact of captivity on these giant sea creatures.
The film was blamed for a drastic decline in park attendance and SeaWorld has since announced that this generation of killer whales will be the last to perform.
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"While today is a hard day for the SeaWorld family, it's important to remember that Tilikum lived a long and enriching life while at SeaWorld", the statement reads.
The company also announced that it would help develop its first SeaWorld park without orcas in Abu Dhabi. In 1991, he was transferred to SeaWorld Orlando and was there for 25 years.
The animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) tweeted a photo of Tilikum on Friday along with the message: "R.I.P. Tilikum Dead after three decades of misery".
The movie shows disturbing footage of whales like this held in captivity.
Tilikum was brought to the park in 1992. After learning about his death, they posted a tweet:"Heartbreaking news. He lived a awful life, he caused unspeakable pain, so at least his chapter is over", Cowperthaite said.
Her death was not the only one linked to Tilikum at SeaWorld.
"We needed to move where society was moving", Manby said. He anxious the loss of employees trained to care for marine mammals may inadvertently weaken other conservation efforts, such as a captive breeding program proposed for endangered porpoises called vaquitas in the waters off Mexico.