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SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida has announced that Tilikum the Orca whale has died. 

The star of Blackfish passed away early Friday morning surrounded by trainers, care staff and veterinarians.

“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,” said President & CEO of SeaWorld Joel Manby.

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Tilikum was profiled in the popular documentary Blackfish, which sparked controversy about how the park cares for its animals.

The whale arrived at the water park over 25 years ago, and is estimated to have been 36 when he passed.

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He will be missed by everyone who cared for him, and by animal lovers around the world. 



A drop in Florida tourism and the still keenly-felt impact of Blackfish means SeaWorld is struggling. 

Indeed, a top theme park consultant has now said that the attraction may need a decade or more to recover from the release of the hard-hitting 2013 documentary.

Dennis Speigel, president of International Theme Park Services, said in conversation with the New York Post that SeaWorld's "imagery issues have not had enough time to go away," adding: "This is a ten-year turnaround."

The theme-park recently reported that attendance was off some 7.6 percent; there were fewer than 6million visitors in the most recent quarter – representing a 5.2 percent drop in revenue.

The drop-off also sparked a 13.2 percent decline in SeaWorld shares.

It was announced in March that SeaWorld was ending orca breeding and orca shows. 



Since the release of the documentary Blackfish in 2012, SeaWorld have been faced with a massive amount of negative press.

As a result, the attempts of many to close the parks, or actually stop their breeding of the orcas which they hold in captivity have gathered huge support.

Recently, the California Coastal Commission voted that SeaWorld San Diego would be allowed to expand their orca tanks.

Project Blue World was being widely promoted by the SeaWorld organisation- despite the parks struggling to stay afloat as profits and attendance numbers dropped by 84 per cent.

While the project has been allowed, there are some serious conditions which will have to be followed.

SeaWorld San Diego will no longer be permitted to breed its 11 captive orcas.

The commission also provided strict limits on how much SeaWorld can transfer its existing 11 orcas in and out of the park.

SeaWorld will also not be allowed to sell, transfer or trade them. This would mean that these 11 captive orcas may very well be the last to live in tanks at SeaWorld San Diego.

Speaking to The Dodo, Jared Goodman of PETA said:

“The California Coastal Commission did right by orcas in requiring, as a condition of approval for the Blue World Project, that SeaWorld stop breeding them, which will ultimately end captivity for long-suffering orcas in California.”

He added that the strict laws enforced by the Commission mean that no more orcas will be “condemned to a non-life of loneliness, deprivation and misery.”

He also referred to SeaWorld as a circus and the orcas as its “abused elephants.”

John Reilly, president of SeaWorld San Diego has spoken out against the ruling by saying that “a ban on breeding would sentence these animals to a slow extinction in our care.”

SeaWorld continues to operate parks in both Orlando and San Antonio. Neither of these parks have been affected by the latest news but protestors of SeaWorld are hoping that could change very soon.



Back in 2012, SeaWorld was a thriving theme park company with annual revenue totalling hundreds of millions. Now, three years on, it is struggling to stay afloat as attendance plummets and profits drop by 84% in a three-month period.

The main reason? A controversial 2013 documentary called Blackfish, which outed SeaWorld for cruel treatment of its orca whales. Blackfish alleged that the sustained bad practices contributed to the death of three people. 

Accusations of bad treatment include claims that a number of calf whales were separated from their mother and sent to other parks while still dependent, that the whales were deprived of food to ensure they performed tricks on cue, and that they were drugged to keep them stable when angry or anxious in captivity.

In one particular incident, an experienced female trainer at SeaWorld Orlando, Dawn Brancheau, was killed by killer whale Tilikum after a show in the park's famous Shamu Stadium. On another occasion trainer Ken Peters was almost killed by dominant female orca Kasatka when she repeatedly dragged him down to the bottom of the pool during a show by holding his foot in her mouth. 

Luckily he survived, and his testimony featured in the 2013 documentary.

The company has three parks in the US – one in Orlando, Florida, one in San Diego, California and one in San Antonio, Texas. 

As well as the drop in attendance, SeaWorld's operational costs have soared in recent years following a huge PR and damage control campaign. Sea World CEO Joel Manby blamed the drop in profits on bad weather conditions and what he called "continued brand challenges."

Speaking about the company's "reputational" campaign, he said, "We recognise that fully resolving our brand challenges in California will require sustained focus and commitment to correct misinformation."