Tilikum, of course, lived to be 36, slightly above the average life expectancy of a wild male orca. But statistically, he's "a gross outlier," Rose explained. In SeaWorld's roughly 50-year history, only two male orcas - Tilikum and Ulisses, who's currently in his mid-to-late 30s - made it past 30."[SeaWorld's] been around for many, many years and only two males have made it ... they're all dead by 30," Rose explained. "After 50 years, Tilikum and Ulysses were it."
But that longevity means that Tilikum's death could serve a greater purpose: Researchers rarely have access to deceased orcas, and Tilikum's health could provide insights about both captive cetaceans and orcas in general.
Though SeaWorld said in its statement that samples had been shared with a dozen studies, it's unclear whether those studies are being conducted by independent researchers or are affiliated with SeaWorld.