SeaWorld's most famous whale, who passed away last month, died due to bacterial pneumonia, the park announced on Friday.
"The necropsy performed following Tilikum's death confirmed his cause of death as bacterial pneumonia, consistent with his diagnosis and treatment," SeaWorld said in a statement. "Bacterial pneumonia is commonly found in whales and dolphins in the wild as well as zoos."
Tilikum's story - that of an intelligent animal stolen from his wild mother's side as a baby, then forced to spend decades in tiny marine park tanks - became a rallying point for a public increasingly concerned about captivity.
While SeaWorld's announcement seems intended to bring closure, not everyone is buying it. Naomi Rose, a marine biologist and orca expert with the Animal Welfare Institute, told The Dodo that pneumonia is a very common cause of death among captive marine mammals.
But in nearly every case, she explained, pneumonia is simply a secondary sign of something else that's wrong with the animal - in other words, most animals who die of it have primary health problems that allow pneumonia to develop.