SeaWorld Prepares 'Natural' Exhibit After Final Orca Show on Sunday

SeaWorld Prepares 'Natural' Exhibit After Final Orca Show on Sunday

SeaWorld did not give a cause of death but said that the whale had faced serious health issues including a persistent and complicated bacterial lung infection.

SeaWorld later announced a new focus on conservation and in March a year ago plans to discontinue breeding killer whales.

The orca featured prominently in the 2013 documentary "Blackfish" which focused on his capture from the wild and what the filmmakers posited as the trauma he suffered from living in captivity and performing in SeaWorld's theatrical shows.

"We have already tested educational orca presentations here and they resonated very positively with our guests, reinforcing that we can be both fun and meaningful in our parks and with our animal exhibits and presentations", the statement said.

Soon after Tilikum was moved to SeaWorld in the USA state of Florida where, on July 6, 1999, he was linked to a second death.

Tilikum the orca has died after more than two decades at SeaWorld Orlando, where he gained notoriety for killing a trainer in 2010 and was later profiled in a documentary that helped sway popular opinion against keeping killer whales in captivity.

"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", he said in a statement. 'We'd like to send love to Tilikum, ' they wrote.

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Tilikum was brought to the park in 1992. Those interviewed in "Blackfish" argued that the whale had essentially become psychotic after being torn from his close-knit wild pod at a young age and kept in barren, isolated tanks. The first incident occurred in 1991 at Sealand of the Pacific in which Tilikum along with two other orcas killed a trainer-cum-competitive swimmer after she accidentally slipped into the pool.

1999 - A naked man was found dead, draped over Tilikum's body in a breeding tank.

"Tilikum passed away early this morning, January 6, surrounded by the trainers, care staff and veterinarians that provided him around-the-clock world-class care", SeaWorld announced on its website. After the documentary played at the Sundance Film Festival and aired on CNN, several entertainers pulled out of planned SeaWorld performances and animal rights activists increased their demonstrations outside the parks.

Tilikum's story launched a public conversation about large marine mammals in captivity, including how to make life in a pool better for these animals. SeaWorld now has 22 orcas at its three facilities in Orlando, Florida; San Antonio, Texas; and San Diego California.

Tilikum was 36, SeaWorld says near the end of the average male killer whale's life span.

Other whales remain at the water park.