Plenty of documentaries earnestly seek to create change in the world, but Blackfish arguably accomplished that goal better than most. The 2013 documentary—which, to put it extremely reductively, opened the world’s eyes to how fucked up SeaWorld is—led to an 84 percent drop in business for SeaWorld (although the company claimed the drop was due to outside factors), and the suddenly controversial chain of marine parks halted its orca breeding program last year. Now Tilikum, the killer whale profiled in the documentary who killed SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010 and was linked to two other human deaths over the course of his 25 years in captivity, has died.
The news was announced on the SeaWorld website, which said, “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.” He was estimated to be about 36 years old, and had been ill for some time—as far as veterinarians at the park could tell, with a bacterial lung infection. The company’s obituary for the whale makes a point of memorializing Brancheau as well, adding, “while we all experienced profound sadness about [the] loss [of Brancheau], we continued to offer Tilikum the best care possible, each and every day, from the country’s leading experts in marine mammals.”
Meanwhile, Blackfish and PETA made points of their own about Tilikum’s death on their social-media platforms, with PETA saying, “R.I.P. Tilikum, dead after three decades of misery.” SeaWorld currently has 22 orcas remaining in captivity.