Their have lots of petitions going around demanding for the orcas to be released into the wild and thus prompting people to become “animal rights activists” overnight. I put the “animal rights activists” in the quotation marks because many of these people do not understand the needs of these majestic creatures and simply believe that if they are put into the wild they will survive and lead an excellent life. This dream is in fact warped and people that believe so are completely uneducated and ignorant.
There are many different ecotypes of Killer Whales and many people are unaware of this. For example, in the Pacific Ocean alone, there are two different ecotypes Transient and Resident orcas (Residents also being split into Southern and Northern) and they both live very different lives. Resident whales live in large pods wherein the calfs never leave their mothers and stay within the family groups or pods. They hunt fish and are extremely vocal. On the other hand, Transients whales frequently travel alone or in small groups of less than 10 and many do leave their family groups. They hunt mammals and are normally very silent until after the hunt has finished when they are very vocal.
There are also Atlantic orcas (Type 1 and 2) and also Atlantic orcas (which look significantly different to other orcas due to their bulbous melons, although all the different ecotypes look slightly different) but as these ecotypes aren’t in SeaWorld I’m going to gloss over these.
Now due to the crossbreeding that has took place in SeaWorld they have created hybrids between Pacific (Icelandic) Transients and Resident orcas. These hybrids will never find a place in the wild because they do not occur naturally!
Furthermore, as the orcas that were caught from the wild were done so at a young age they never learnt social skills from their parents and so never had that knowledge to pass on to the orcas born to them in captivity. This lead to orcas that will not be able to function in pods in the wild as they are basically all children with no social skills! For example, Killer Whales in the wild only rake each other with their teeth as calves until they are taught not to by mature orcas. In comparison, in SeaWorld mature whales still rake each other with their teeth as they have never learned not to do so.
SeaWorld also, although they may deny it, separate calves from their mothers (as is evidenced first hand by John Hargrove, a former senior trainer for SeaWorld, in his thought-provoking book Beneath the Surface) and for Resident whales who don’t separate for the entirety of their lives, expect for to mate, this is very distressing and probably something they never recover from (John Hargrove states in his book that Kasatka made long range vocalisations after her daughter Takara was taken from her).
I agree that the SeaWorld orca tanks should be emptied but not that they should the released into the wild. The only logica step would be to release the orcas to sea pens and stop the breeding program so that they can live out the remainder of their lives in the ocean but still under the care of SeaWorld trainers and veterinarians, as unfortunately, they and other marine mammal parks are the only ones with the knowledge and ability to look after captive orcas.