Tilikum, the orca that once resided in Sealand of the Pacific in Oak Bay, has died.
SeaWorld said in a statement; it was “deeply saddened” by the killer whale’s death, saying Tilikum had suffered serious health issues but did not give a cause of death.
Seaworld had reported his poor health in March 2016.
Captured off the coast of Iceland in 1983 when he was two years old, along with two other
young orcas, he was transferred to the Sealand of the Pacific facility on Vancouver Island, after almost a year in a tank at a zoo in Reykjavik.
On February 20, 1991, Keltie Byrne, a 21-year-old marine biology student and competitive swimmer, slipped into the pool containing Tilikum, Haida II, and Nootka IV while working as a part-time Sealand trainer. The three orcas submerged her, dragging her around the pool and preventing her from surfacing.
She surfaced three times screaming before drowning, and it was several hours before her body could be recovered from the pool.
Tilikum was later moved to SeaWorld Orlando, Florida on January 9, 1992. Sealand of the Pacific closed soon afterward.
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.
Tilikum was featured in the documentary Blackfish, which criticized parks that keep killer whales in captivity.
He was estimated to be 36-years-old and was born in waters off Iceland.
SeaWorld has not collected a whale from the wild in nearly 40 years, and this past March the attraction announced the end of the orca breeding program, effectively making the whales currently at SeaWorld the last generation of orcas under human care.
Seaworld Orlando said Tilikum had died earlier in the morning on January 6th, 2017.
— SeaWorld (@SeaWorld) January 6, 2017