Tilikum the whale dies

Star of Blackfish triggered outcry over orca captivity.

by Jennie Kermode

Tilikum Photo: Milan Boers

Tilikum, the killer whale who became central to international debate over cetacean captivity after his appearance in documentary Blackfish, died this morning at his home in SeaWorld, San Diego. He was believed to be around 36 years old and he had been suffering from lung problems.

Originally captured near Iceland, Tilikum was badly bullied by other whales in captivity and went on to be involved in the deaths of three people. He suffered from health problems on several occasions, and from the collapse of his dorsal fin, a problem only seen in captive whales. Wild orcas usually live into their fifties and sometimes much longer. By focusing on his plight, Blackfish precipitated an outcry over the keeping of orcas in captivity.

One of few orcas to reproduce in captivity - albeit artificially - Tilikum is survived by 10 of his 21 children, and two grandchildren.

Dogwoof, which distributed Blackfish, described the news as "heartbreaking."

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