ORLANDO, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - According to SeaWorld Orlando, the orca named "Tilikum" is suffering through major health issues.
In the statement on Facebook SeaWorld says the following: "We are saddened to report that over the past few weeks, Tilikum's health has been deteriorating. Our teams are treating him with care and medication for what we believe is a bacterial infection in his lungs.
Tilikum made headlines six years ago when his trainer, Dawn Brancheau, died when she was killed after the orca pulled her into his tank by her ponytail. Tilikum is estimated to be about 34 years old. SeaWorld says Tili has been part of their family for 23 years.
They say Tili has had respiratory issues in the past and this particular type of respiratory infection is hard to treat. “We take blood from him at least once a week. To kind of monitor what kind of inflammation is going. Blood kind of gives us a nice picture into his health, status,” said Dr. Gearhart.
Right now, the orca's medication is administered through the fish he eats every day. Tourists just hearing Tili is sick, expressed sadness for the whale. Vigdis Anderson are visiting Orlando from Iceland. Their family says they prefer to see the beautiful mammals in their native habitat at home in Iceland instead of in captivity. “I just don’t feel like they are ours to enjoy for sport,” said Andersen.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, shared a very similar sentiment in a statement released on Tuesday, saying SeaWorld has “deliberately caused Tilikum to suffer immensely by confining him to a small concrete tank for decades causing him to succumb to mental illness that has resulted in aggression and now to some incurable illness."
SeaWorld's experts say otherwise. “If Tilikum would have showed up with this disease in the wild, there’s no doubt in my mind he’d have been gone a long time ago,” said Dr. Scott Gearhart.
MORE INFO: Caring for Tilikum The Killer Whale