Tilikum, the orca which made headlines in 2010 when it killed its trainer during a show at SeaWorld Orlando and which was the subject of the 2013 documentary “Blackfish,” is severely ill, officials say.
SeaWorld Orlando said in a statement on Tuesday that Tilikum, whose nickname is Tilli, has become increasingly lethargic over the past few weeks. “SeaWorld veterinary and animal care teams are concerned that his health is beginning to deteriorate,” it said.
The park said its teams are treating Tilukum with medication for what it believes is a bacterial infection in the killer whale’s lungs. “The suspected bacteria is very resistant to treatment and a cure for his illness has not been found,” the statement added.
Although the park did not say whether the orca is close to death, officials said his condition may continue to fluctuate. “Our veterinarians are focused on managing his illness in a way that makes him comfortable and creates an enriching life,” it said.
Tilukum was first owned by “Sealand of the Pacific” in Canada where he and two other orcas killed a 21-year-old trainer in 1991. Tilukum was acquired by SeaWorld Orlando the next year and is believed to have killed a 27-year-old visitor in 1999 after he evaded security to enter the orca tank.
More than a decade later, in February 2010, Tilukum made international headlines when he killed 40-year-old trainer Dawn Brancheau during a show witnessed by scores of guests. The incident led to renewed controversy over the captivity of killer whales and the release of a documentary called “Blackfish” in 2013.
In November 2015, SeaWorld San Diego announced plans to phase out its theatrical killer whale show from 2017 and to introduce a “new orca experience” that takes place in a more natural setting.
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