Tilikum, an orca at the centre of the Blackfish documentary, died in the early hours of Jan. 6.
His death was announced by Seaworld, where the orca had been in captivity since 1992.
— SeaWorld (@SeaWorld) January 6, 2017
According to Seaworld, Tilikum was being treated for a persistent and complicated bacterial lung infection. However, a necropsy will need to be performed before an official cause of death can be determined.
“Tilikum’s veterinarians and caretakers delivered various treatment regimens over the course of this illness [including] combinations of anti-inflammatories, anti-bacterials, anti-nausea medications, hydration therapy and aerosolized antimicrobial therapy,” a Seaworld blog post reads.
Tilikum had led a life of controversy. He was transferred to Seaworld after he and two other orcas killed part-time trainer Keltie Byrne at the now-defunct Sealand aquarium in Victoria.
Tilikum was responsible for two more deaths at Seaworld – Daniel P. Dukes in 1999, who had evaded security and stayed in the orca enclosure overnight, and Seaworld trainer Dawn Brancheau.
The killer whale was originally captured off the coast of Iceland in 1983.
Seaworld ended its orca breeding program in March 2016.