The elephants being retired this week by Barnum and Bailey Circus into a Florida preserve face no real adjustment problems in retirement, but how about the orcas (killer whales) being forced by public opinion to be retired from show biz? Many were actually born in captivity and even Keiko, the orca captured in the wild who was made famous by the “Free Willy” movie, died of natural causes on December 12, 2003, at the relatively young age of 27, possibly of pneumonia, one year after being returned to the wild.

Progressive California Law

In California, U.S.A., the AB 2140 -- Orca Welfare and Safety Act bill -- is moving toward adoption as a law that would “make it illegal to “hold in captivity, or use, a wild-caught or captive-bred orca for performance or entertainment purposes.”

Although SeaWorld San Diego fought for delays in passing this bill a few years ago, they have apparently committed to the ideals expressed by the pending bill by ceasing breeding activity in captivity and no longer opposing the bill in the California legislature.So the question arises just how and where will SeaWorld safely and comfortably retire their orcas now that they have pledged to stop using them in shows?

Seven of the ten orcas at SeaWorld were born in captivity.

What's the problem?

Some people would ask just what is so terrible about having them learn tricks and have an enriched environment working with humans?Certainly for anyone with any feeling for Animals there is a strong case for never again capturing these mammals in the wild and forcing them into captivity to entertain humans, but that isn’t the question facing conservationists and animal rights activists today.

Today we have living animals that have never known the ocean and which get top notch medical care and feeding along with human interaction.Would it really be a good thing to dump them in the ocean to face the unknown dangers?The WDC, Whales and Dolphins Consortium charity is currently working on the possibility of creating an isolated ocean cove where released orcas and other dolphin species can be kept and cared for in a more secure and controlled environment while still giving them a lifestyle closer to a natural environment.