SeaWorld killer whale Tilikum of 'Blackfish' movie fame dies

TAMPA, Fla., Jan 6 (Reuters) - Tilikum, the orca who killed several people and was featured in the documentary "Blackfish" making the case against keeping orcas in captivity, died on Friday, SeaWorld Entertaintment Inc said.

Thought to be about 36 years old, Tilikum drew international attention for dragging a SeaWorld trainer underwater to her death during a 2010 show in Florida.

Tilikum had been experiencing declining health and receiving treatment for a bacterial lung infection, the company said in a news release. It noted that an official cause of death would not be known until a necropsy was completed.

See how social media reacted to the news:

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Famed SeaWorld orca Tilikum passes away
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Famed SeaWorld orca Tilikum passes away
We’re saddened to announce the passing of Tilikum, a beloved member of the SeaWorld family for 25 years.… https://t.co/1H94iuJkAD
Heartbreaking news. SeaWorld has announced the passing of Tilikum #RIPTilikum #Blackfish https://t.co/oR8qwzsOpd
Tilikum, the Orca that killed a trainer at SeaWorld Orlando in 2010 and featured in the Black Fish documentary, has… https://t.co/7xjPR5ItcV
BREAKING: After 33 years in captivity, Tilikum—who was the subject of #Blackfish—is dead. #RIPTilikum https://t.co/Duj9KOEJbo
#RIPTilikum, you brought awareness & change to a cruel,dying industry.We hope one day, no animal will suffer for hu… https://t.co/75Or2acSbX
Absolutely disgusting than an animal should be subjected to 33 years in nothing more than a box of water #RIPTilikum
So saddened by the news about Tilikum passing away 💔😢 #RIPTilikum
Only through death could he escape captivity. Swim free, Tilly. #RIPTilikum #Tilikum #Blackfish https://t.co/MyTHSsl9gm
Swim strong, Tilikum. You're finally free. #fuckseaworld #riptilikum #blackfish
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"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 President and CEO Joel Manby said in a statement.

The theme park saw its image tarnished after the release of the 2013 documentary, which depicted the captivity and public exhibition of killer whales as cruel.

The film chronicled the life of Tilikum, who was captured in 1983 around the age of 2. He spent 25 years in SeaWorld's care.

In addition to killing trainer Dawn Brancheau in front of horrified guests in Orlando, Tilikum was involved in the deaths of a worker at a different marine park in 1991 and an Orlando tourist who was found on the whale's back in 1999 after trespassing into its tank.

"From the moment he was taken from his ocean family, his life was tragic and filled with pain, as are the lives of the other animals who remain in SeaWorld's tanks and exhibits," Lisa Lange, senior vice president for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) in a statement.

Tilikum was bred 21 times, with 11 of his offspring previously dying, PETA noted.

After the documentary and protests by PETA, SeaWorld cut jobs, lost promotional deals and faced attendance drops. The company last year pledged to stop breeding killer whales in captivity and to phase out its whale entertainment shows.

With Tilikum's death, SeaWorld now has 22 orcas at parks in Orlando, San Antonio and San Diego.

The company noted that Tilikum was slightly older than wild killer males live in the region that he came from.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says males typically live for 30 years, but can see 50 to 60 years, while females typically live 50 years and can reach up to 100 years.

The world's oldest known killer whale, known as Granny, whose age was estimated to be over 100 years when she went missing last autumn, according to researchers.

Learn more about SeaWorld's history:

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SeaWorld history
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SeaWorld history
SAN DIEGO - FEBRUARY 20: Actress Uma Thurman hugs killer whale Shamu during a visit to SeaWorld February 20 ,2009 in San Diego, California. The star of films 'Pulp Fiction' and 'Kill Bill' was treated to a behind-the-scenes tour at the marine-life park where she also got to interact with bottlenose dolphins, beluga whales and a walrus. (Photo by Bob Couey/SeaWorld San Diego via Getty Images)
392915 02: Pop Singer Kaci Pets A Penguin August 2, 2001 At Seaworld In San Diego, Ca. (Photo By Getty Images)
393343 01: Talk Show Host Larry King Pretends To Interview Shamu, A Killer Whale, During A Family Visit To Seaworld August 6, 2001 In San Diego, Ca. (Photo By Getty Images)
393584 02: Rapper Ll Cool J Holds A Macaroni Penguin During A Behind-The-Scenes Tour At Seaworld August 22, 2001 In San Diego, Ca. (Photo By Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO - APRIL 10: Actress Debra Messing interacts with curious penguins at SeaWorld San Diego's Penguin Encounter April 10, 2009 in San Diego, California. The actress and her family were treated to a behind-the-scenes tour of the marine-life park. The penguin exhibit features a snow-filled habitat maintained at 25 degrees that features more than 250 penguins representing five Antarctic species. (Photo by Bob Couey/SeaWorld San Diego via Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO - MAY 2: Tony Award-winning actress Marissa Jaret Winokur and 10 month-old son Zev get an up-close look at a Humboldt penguin chick during tour of SeaWorld San Diego May 2, 2009 in San Diego, California. The chick, which is being hand raised, is just over 30-days-old. Winokur, her husband Judah Miller, a writer and producer on the animated comedy show 'King of the Hill,' and Zev enjoyed a behind-the-scenes tour which included a Dolphin Interaction Program and other close up interactions with killer whales, dolphins, beluga whales, walruses and sharks. Winokur will host Oxygen�s new competition series 'Dance Your Ass Off,' premiering June 29. (Photo by Bob Couey/SeaWorld San Diego via Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 26: In this handout from SeaWorld San Diego, 'True Blood' actor Anna Paquin swims with a bottlenose dolphin during a Dolphin Interaction Program at SeaWorld San Diego's Penguin Encounter July 26, 2009 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Bob Couey-SeaWorld via Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO - MAY 14: In this handout photo provided by SeaWorld San Diego, singer Justin Bieber poses next to Allua, a female beluga whale at SeaWorld San Diego, on May 14, 2010 in San Diego, California. Bieber was in San Diego for a live performance today. (Photo by Bob Couey/SeaWorld San Diego via Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA - AUGUST 27: In this handout image provided by SeaWorld San Diego, SeaWorld San Diego�s 14-year-old, 1,150-pound male polar bear, Charly, chills following a snowy adventure at the park's Wild Arctic attraction on August 27, 2010. Summer temperatures soared into the triple digits across the United States. (Photo by Bob Couey/SeaWorld San Diego via Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 16: In this handout image provided by SeaWorld San Diego, �Bachelorette� Ali Fedotowsky celebrates her 26th birthday with her fiancé Roberto Martinez at SeaWorld San Diego on September 16, 2010 in San Diego, California. The love birds spent a day interacting with SeaWorld's amazing animals, including bottlenose dolphins. During a special Dolphin Interaction Program arranged by Roberto, one of dolphins even brought Ali a birthday message in a bottle! (Photo by Bob Couey/SeaWorld San Diego via Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA - OCTOBER 04: In this handout photo provided by SeaWorld San Diego, a new emperor is in town at SeaWorld on October 4, 2010 in San Diego, California. For the first time in eight years, an emperor penguin has hatched at the marine-life park's Penguin Encounter attraction. The 3-week-old, 2-pound chick hatched in mid-September and is being hand-raised by the SeaWorld's aviculturists in a behind-the-scenes nursery. This marks the 21st emperor penguin to hatch at the park since 1980. SeaWorld San Diego is world-renowned for its successful penguin breeding program and has hatched and raised more than 500 penguin chicks representing eight species in the last 30 years. The chick is expected to go on public display in about four months. (Photo by Mike Aguilera/SeaWorld San Diego via Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA - JUNE 21: Sea World staff photographer Mike Aguilera photographs the release boat carrying Miranda Richardson as she helps Sea World San Diego return rescued Sea Turtles to the ocean at Sea World on June 21, 2011 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA - JUNE 21: A general view of the atmosphere at the premiere of Sea World San Diego's 'Turtle: The Incredible Journey' on June 21, 2011 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA - JUNE 21: A general view of the atmosphere at the premiere of Sea World San Diego's 'Turtle: The Incredible Journey' on June 21, 2011 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA - AUGUST 03: In this handout photo provided by SeaWorld San Diego, singer-songwriter Sheryl Crow meets Clyde the Sea Lion, the star of SeaWorld San Diego’s 'Sea Lion Tonite,' at the marine-life park's Sea Lion and Otter Stadium on August 3, 2011 in San Diego, California. Crow and her sons spent the day a SeaWorld meeting, feeding and learning about sea turtles, penguins and sea lions, other park animal ambassadors. Crow was performing in San Diego on her summer concert tour with Kid Rock. (Photo by Mike Aguilera/SeaWorld San Diego via Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 15: In this handout photo provided by SeaWorld San Diego, Santa Claus poses with a Beluga Whale at SeaWorld San Diego on December 15, 2011 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Mike Aguilera/SeaWorld San Diego via Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA - MAY 17: In this handout image provided by Seaworld, five Humboldt penguin chicks seem to pose perfectly for a picture at SeaWorld San Diego on May 17, 2012 in San Diego, California The chicks, which hatched at the marine-life park within the last two months, were raised by their parents until the age of 30 days when penguin keepers took over rearing and are teaching them to accept food from humans. Native to Peru and Chile, Humboldts are a threatened species. SeaWorld San Diego has a colony of more than 40 adults, which can be seen during a behind-the-scenes tour. (Photo by Mike Aguilera/Seaworld via Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA - APRIL 06: In this handout image provided by SeaWorld, Clyde, an Asian water monitor went on an early Easter egg hunt today, with the help of SeaWorld trainer Caroline Smith at SeaWorld San Diego on April 6, 2012 in San Diego, California. He gobbled up several eggs on the grassy area of Animal Connections, where he often can be seen as part of impromptu encounters. Asian water monitors, native to marshes and riverbanks throughout southern Asia, are good climbers and sometimes feed on eggs from bird's nests. They also eat birds, fish and other small animals. (Photo by Mike Aguilera/SeaWorld via Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 15: In this handout image provided by SeaWorld San Diego, actress Willow Shields dances with her new friend, Avalon, a bottlenose dolphin, at SeaWorld San Diego's Dolphin Point on July 15, 2012 in San Diego, California. 'The Hunger Games' star was in San Diego participating in the 43rd annual Comic-Con when she made a visit to the marine-life park. Along with dolphins, Stenberg also met penguins, seals and sea lions. (Photo by Mike Aguilera/SeaWorld San Diego via Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA - OCTOBER 25: In this handout photo provided by SeaWorld, Szenja, one of the polar bears from SeaWorld San Diego’s Wild Arctic exhibit, gets into the spirit of Halloween on October 25, 2012 in San Diego, California. Polar bears are the largest land carnivore and have 42 teeth, which they use for catching food. Polar bears swallow most food in large chunks rather than chewing. (Photo by Mike Aguilera/ SeaWorld San Diego via Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA - NOVEMBER 05: In this handout photo provided by SeaWorld, Cascade, a 29-year-old Atlantic bottlenose dolphin, gave birth to a calf at SeaWorld San Diego on November 5, 2012 in San Diego, California . The 30-pound calf is the 78th dolphin born at the marine-life park. SeaWorld trainers and animal care specialists are monitoring both mom and calf round-the-clock documenting respirations and nursing frequency. Cascade and her calf are doing very well as they swim together and bond. (Photo by Mike Aguilera/SeaWorld San Diego Via Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA - FEBRUARY 14: In this handout photo provided by SeaWorld San Diego, mom and baby killer whale swim together at SeaWorld San Diego's Shamu Stadium February 14, 2013 in San Diego, California. Kasatka, a killer whale who is approximately 37 years old, gave birth to the calf this morning at 6:33 a.m. under the watchful eyes of SeaWorld's zoological team. The calf is estimated to weigh between 300 and 350 pounds and measure 6 to 7 feet. The gender of the calf is not yet known. As with any killer whale birth, the mother and calf will be observed round the clock for the first few days. (Photo by Mike Aguilera/SeaWorld San Diego via Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 19: In this handout photo provided by SeaWorld San Diego, actor Ken Jeong, who stars in 'The Hangover Part III' and the new movie 'Turbo,' enjoyed a day at SeaWorld San Diego with his family July 19, 2013 in San Diego, California. Jeong got up close and personal with Clyde the Sea Lion. He also toured the park's Animal Rescue facility, and visited amazing animals at Wild Arctic and Pets Rule! (Photo by Mike Aguilera/SeaWorld San Diego via Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA - JANUARY 27: In this handout image provided by SeaWorld San Diego, California sea lion pups recover at SeaWorld San Diego's Animal Rescue Center January 27, 2015 in San Diego, California. The marine park, along with other rehabilitation facilities along the California coastline, is seeing a dramatic increase in the number of ailing sea lions stranded on beaches this year. The young animals, six to eight months old, are found extremely lethargic, malnourished and dehydrated. It's not known with certainty why the region is seeing a larger number of strandings this early in 2015, however, there could be insufficient food sources for the sea lions. SeaWorld San Diego has rescued 62 marine mammals since Jan. 1, and 60 of those are California sea lions. (Photo by Mike Aguilera/SeaWorld San Diego via Getty Images)
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