The orca who inspired the documentary Blackfish died Friday at SeaWorld, his home for more than 20 years, reports USA Today. A planned necropsy will give an official cause of death, though Tilikum had been suffering from a bacterial lung infection for some time. SeaWorld says that at an estimated age of 36, he was "near the high end of the average life expectancy for male killer whales," per WFTS. First discovered off Iceland and placed in captivity in Canada, Tilikum was moved to SeaWorld Orlando in the 1990s and sired 14 calves there, a park record.
Tilikum was involved in the deaths of three people during his lifetime, including that of SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010. That incident, ruled an accident, inspired Blackfish, which pointed out the dangers of holding intelligent orcas in captivity. (The other two deaths: that of a Sealand trainer who fell into a pool occupied by Tilikum and two female orcas in 1992, and that of a naked man who sneaked into SeaWorld and was found dead in Tilikum's tank in 1999.) "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," SeaWorld's CEO says, per CBS News. "My heart goes out to our team who cared for him like family." (Read more SeaWorld stories.)