Killer whale at centre of harrowing ‘Blackfish’ doco dies in captivity at SeaWorld

After 30 years the notorious orca has passed away.

Tilikum the bull orca has passed away at SeaWorld, Florida after contracting a suspected lung infection.

Tilikum was perhaps the most well-known orca in the world.

After decades of performing for audiences at SeaWorld, Tilikum’s fame skyrocketed after the release of the 2013 documentary, Blackfish, which investigated claims of attacks on trainers by orcas in captivity at the park.

‘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 and CEO of SeaWorld Joel Manby in a statement on SeaWorld’s website. ‘My heart goes out to our team who cared for him like family.’

Tilikum was estimated to be around 36 years old.


  • Also known as ‘killer whales’, orcas aren’t actually whales at all! They are in fact more closely related to dolphins and porpoises.

  • Tilikum is infamously remembered for the attack on trainer Dawn Brancheau, who died as a result of injuries sustained after the killer whale pulled her into the water during a show in 2010.

  • SeaWorld have ceased their killer whale breeding program, and will no longer capture or breed orcas to keep in captivity.

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