SeaWorld orca who inspired ‘Blackfish’ documentary dies

One of SeaWorld’s  orca whales, Tilikum, who is best known for killing his trainer in 2010, died Friday.

As reported by USA TODAY, the cause of death remains unknown, but a necropsy is planned. The whale was 36 years old.

In February 2010, Tilikum was with his trainer, 40-year-old Dawn Brancheau, at SeaWorld Orlando’s Shamu Stadium when he grabbed her by the ponytail and pulled her underwater in front of an audience.

A medical examiner determined Brancheau’s death was accidental as her cause of death was from drowning and traumatic injuries.

The incident sparked a backlash against SeaWorld and inspired the documentary “Blackfish,” which questioned the ethics of orcas in captivity.

SeaWorld’s’s President and CEO Joel Manby expressed his condolences in a statement.

“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,” Manby said. “My heart goes out to our team who cared for him like family.”

Twenty-two SeaWorld orcas remain at facilities in Orlando, San Antonio and San Diego. The company announced the current generation of orcas would be the last at SeaWorld, which planned to stop breeding them this year.

Tilikum’s death has sparked an outrage from animal activists on social media.