The orca Tilikum, SeaWorld Orlando’s best-known attraction and the subject of documentary Blackfish, isn’t looking so crash-hot. in a blogpost today, SeaWorld announced that Tilikum has become far more lethargic in recent weeks, and likely has a bacterial infection in his lungs. 

Tilikum is obviously not only known for being a cool splashy seapark attraction – he has killed three people before. Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s doco Blackfish went into detail on this, arguing that Tilikum’s life in captivity had given him a personality disorder which caused him to kill. This hit SeaWorld hard: in 2015 it was reported that their profits had dropped a massive 84% since the film’s release. They called it a ‘branding concern’, which is one way of describing the death of three people.

After the death of Tilikum’s one-time trainer Dawn Brancheau, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration made a ruling that trainers can only perform with the animals if shielded by a barrier.

SeaWorld Does SeaWorld, Accepts No Blame For Gravely-Ill ‘Blackfish’ Tilikum

The SeaWorld blog announcement keeps up their narrative – that they care deeply for their animals and that Tilikum’s performance role is backed up by their focus on the animal’s health:

Since Tilikum became a part of SeaWorld’s family 23 years ago, he has received the best in marine mammal health care and life enrichment available for killer whales – including a focus on his physical health, mental engagement and social activity with other whales. Despite the best care available, like all aging animals, he battles chronic health issues that are taking a greater toll as he ages.

 

Our teams are treating him with care and medication for what we believe is a bacterial infection in his lungs. However, the suspected bacteria is very resistant to treatment and a cure for his illness has not been found.

“It has been our duty and passion to make sure we give him the utmost care we possibly can,” said Daniel Richardville, Animal Training Supervisor.

This will likely anger activists, who contend that the lifespan of orcas in captivity is far shorter than it is in the wild – sometimes dramatically so

No matter which way you spin it, it’s a real sad story.

Source: NPR

Photo: Getty / Gerardo Mora