Tilikum, SeaWorld's Killer Whale, Is Near Death

Nancy Bailey

Tilikum, star of the movie "Blackfish," and the whale who killed trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010, is in failing health.

Tilikum is suffering from a bacterial lung infection, according to SeaWorld's blog.

— SeaWorld (@SeaWorld) March 8, 2016

"I wish I could say I was tremendously optimistic about Tilikum and his future, but he has a disease which is chronic and progressive and at some point might cause his death."

Tilikum was captured in Iceland in 1983 at age 2. He was later taken to Sealand in British Columbia, Canada. The film Blackfish outlines how 20-year-old student trainer Keltie Byrne fell into a pool with three orcas in February 1991. Tilikum pulled her to the bottom, where she drowned.

Tilikum's history was no secret, but the SeaWorld permit application assured the park that things would be different with some professional training.

"SeaWorld's animals are all highly trained and are accustomed to interacting with trainers. Sealand's animals are essentially untrained."

SeaWorld pointed out that the whale's transfer could not have taken place without the government's approval.

"SeaWorld could not have imported Tilikum without the permission of either the U.S. or Canadian governments after their respective careful review of all the facts and the record."

— Dawn Brancheau (@Dawn_Brancheau) January 17, 2015

Ken Brower, author of Freeing Keiko, the story of the Free Willy whale, examines the possibility of Tilikum being psychotic, deranged by captivity. But Brower said that there are no bad whales.

"They just come with all the instincts of predators."

[Image via underworld/Shutterstock]