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Tlikum, the SeaWorld killer whale who inspired the anti-captivity documentary "Blackfish" after killing an Orlando trainer, died Friday.
SeaWorld said in a statement Tilikum had been battling a serious and persistent lung infection.
WHIDBEY ISLAND, Wash. -- The chances of a retirement home in the San Juan Islands for orcas who have spent their lives performing in concrete pools have greatly improved.
The Whale Sanctuary Project launched Thursday with the intent of building the world's first coastal cetacean sanctuary. One of the locations it's considering is the waterways and inlets of north Puget Sound and Vancouver Island.
The Orca Network has filed suit against the Miami Sea Aquarium in an attempt to return Lolita to Puget Sound. That suit will be heard in a Miami courtroom in June. Dr. Marino says her group is also looking at locations on the east coast. She predicts a sanctuary could be in place within 3 to 5 years.
Judge dismisses ESA case vs. Seaquarium June 1, 2016 - I'm afraid we have some bad news from Miami. U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro dismissed our case vs. the Seaquarium for violations of the Endangered Species Act.
According to the ruling, until Lolita's captivity can be shown to gravely threaten her survival the ESA has not been violated. I believe the case would have shown that her survival is indeed gravely threatened by her confinement in that tiny concrete tub, but now the evidence will not be presented in trial. The court ruled that:
The conditions in which Lolita is kept, and the injuries the Plaintiffs have presented to the Court, are largely addressed under a different federal law—the Animal Welfare Act. Under these facts, Plaintiffs remedy is not under the ESA, but rather with Congress, where their efforts to improve Lolita’s less than ideal conditions can be addressed through legislation.
The San Diego Union-Tribune breaks down the changes visitors can expect:
"The reimagined orca attraction, billed as an educational presentation, will lose the current stage setting, now dominated by four LED screens and a giant depiction of a whale tail. Replacing it will be a new backdrop that incorporates a rugged coastal inlet, artificial Douglas fir trees, cliffs and waterfalls. An infinity high-definition screen will highlight orca movements in the wild, as well as replays of SeaWorld killer whale maneuvers in the stadium pool.
"In what will still be a pre-produced presentation with designated start times, trainers will cue the orcas through a series of more natural behaviors typical of killer whales in the wild — hunting, eating, communicating — accompanied by an informative narrative."
Many of the theme park's critics don't buy that the changes will have a significant effect, however.
"The trainers aren't safe, and the whales aren't happy," Gabriela Cowperthwaite, the director of Blackfish, told CBS News. "They're still just doing manic circles around concrete swimming pools."