Top news Tilikum the killer whale linked to three human deaths has died :(

 Top news Tilikum the killer whale linked to three human deaths has died :( #Top #news #Tilikum the #killer #whale #linked to three #human #deaths has #died :(

Tilikum, the most famous killer whale in the United States, died Friday after a year-long illness and quarter century of performances streaked with violence.

The many-tonned orca — believed to be 36 years old and linked to the deaths of three people in that time — likely succumbed to a lung infection early in the morning, according to a statement released by SeaWorld.

The whale died at the Orlando marine park where he spent most of his life, “surrounded by the trainers, care staff and veterinarians that provided him around-the-clock world-class care,” the statement reads.

Tilikum had been sick since last spring, when a SeaWorld veterinarian, voice cracking, warned that the whale’s bacterial infection was “chronic and progressive.”

SeaWorld eulogized a “long and enriching life” that “inspired millions of people.” Others noted a dark current in the whale’s biography.

[Will SeaWorld survive without orca shows?]

“From the moment he was taken from his ocean family, his life was tragic and filled with pain,” reads a statement from PETA, one of many groups that Tilikum inspired to fight against whale captivity.

Tilikum “has shouldered a fraught history, emerging as the symbol of both orcas’ elegance and their capacity for violence,” The Washington Post’s Yanan Wang wrote in a profile of the whale last March.

Born wild in the icy waters of west Iceland, Wang wrote, he was first netted in 1983 — in an era when killer whales were coveted by marine parks and adored by crowds.

Tilikum was held in a concrete tank for a year, Wang wrote, before being sent to British Columbia to perform at Sealand of the Pacific.

A trainer told CNN that Tilikum was the easiest to work with in Sealand’s stable. He was virile, too, siring many calves before 1991, when a part-time trainer slipped into the orca tank.

A whale grabbed 20-year-old Keltie Byrne’s foot and pulled her underwater, Wang wrote. The whales thrashed her around the tank. She screamed until she drowned.

[SeaWorld fined $75,000 in death of trainer]

Sealand never recovered. “They closed in 1992, a year after selling their killer whales to SeaWorld,” which reportedly wanted Tilikum for breeding at its state-of-the-art theme park, Wang wrote.

Tilikum spent seven years in Orlando before another body turned up in his tank.

In 1999, 27-year-old Daniel Dukes was released from a county jail and apparently snuck into the park at night. He was found drowned and draped across Tilikum’s back, Wang reported.

Still, the whale drew crowds, even after February 2010, when SeaWorld’s star trainer and spokesmodel Dawn Brancheau leaned over Tilikum’s tank and was grabbed in his jaws by her hair.

She was thrashed in the water, like Byrnes before her. Like the others, she died.

Yet the show went on. Tilikum returned to public performances after a year-long hiatus, Wang reported.

His public image did not begin to change — and SeaWorld’s with it — until the documentary “Blackfish” was released in 2013.

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