Killer Whale from 'Blackfish' Is Near Death with Serious Illness

tilikum killer whale seaworld health dying captivity documentary blackfish
Tilikum, the killer whale featured in “Blackfish” is near death

SeaWorld ‘Blackfish’ Documentary Whale Tilikum Close to Death

The killer whale featured in the  documentary “Blackfish” is suffering a serious bacterial infection in the lungs and may not survive, a veterinarian for SeaWorld said Wednesday.

“I wish I could say I was tremendously optimistic about Tilikum and his future,” Dr. Scott Gearhart says in a video released by SeaWorld. “But he has a disease which is chronic and progressive, and at some point might cause his death.”

Tilkikum’s illness represents a sad postscript to the controversial 2013 documentary “Blackfish,”which makes a case that sea mammals suffer mental and physical harm in captivity. Tilikum, in particular, was involved in the deaths of three people, including the horrifying death of trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010. The orca grabbed her by the ponytail and pulled her underwater until she died. Marine biologist Ken Balcomb said at the time that Tilikum is “basically psychotic.”

Tilikum: SeaWorld Defends ‘Blackfish’ Killer Whale’s Care

After Brancheau’s death and the release of “Blackfish,” SeaWorld came under withering criticism and has since suffered severe financial problems. California now bans the breeding of killer whales and SeaWorld’s park in San Diego is phasing out its killer whale shows.

In the video, SeaWorld insisted that Tilikum was getting “the best in marine mammal health care and life enrichment available for killer whales – including a focus on his physical health, mental engagement and social activity with other whales.”

“Despite the best care available, like all aging animals, he battles chronic health issues that are taking a greater toll as he ages,” SeaWorld says.

But the animal rights group Peta reacted to Tilikum’s illness by renewing attacks on SeaWorld.