The debate about lifespan seems never ending. Data can be interpreted in different ways while the debate about lifespan takes the focus away from the questions about quality of life. One could argue that both are equally important and that the quality of life is likely to have an effect on the the quantity.
The report SeaWorld refers to left out calves up to 12 months old, which SeaWorld fails to mention. Leaving out (captive) calves and their mortality-rate impacts the numbers in favor of SeaWorld, and with the help of some confusion about median age versus mean/average age, SeaWorld claims both wild and their captive killer whales have the same life expectancy.
Let's, for argument's sake, say wild and captive killer whales have an equal life expectancy. On their blog, SeaWorld states
The animals at SeaWorld do not face many of the challenges of wild animals. They are not subject to hunger or pollution. If they're ill or injured, they receive veterinary care.
Animals at SeaWorld have a more comprehensive preventive medicine program than most humans. Rather than just a yearly physical, the whales at SeaWorld receive complete health assessments every month.
Considering the lack of healthcare and the dangers wild killer whales face, and the comprehensive care captive whales are given, shouldn't captive killer whales outlive their wild counterparts? Or, at the very least, live long enough to clearly show their life expectancy equals that of wild killer whales, without the need to hunt down favorable reports and interpret data in the best possible way? And the most important question: why do captive killer whales need such intensive care just to have their life expectancy more or less match up to that of their wild counterparts?
SeaWorld is picking the wrong battle
These questions and their answers are just a few examples of how SeaWorld still refuses to give out clear information to the public. What the company just doesn't seem to understand is that their battle is not with the "animal rights extremists" but rather a battle over many of the people they accuse of being extremists: the general public that has concerns about captivity and the welfare of the animals in SeaWorld's care.
Yes, there are activists that want SeaWorld to close and some hard core activists will go out of their way to make SeaWorld look bad. But their numbers are too few to be of any real concern if handled in a professional manner. Just like there aren't enough hard core SeaWorld supporters (that will visit the parks no matter what) to keep them afloat, there aren't enough 'whacktivists' to be of any real concern to them. Many of the people SeaWorld dismisses as 'extremists' are simply concerned (potential) customers that would visit their parks if only SeaWorld would respect and address their concerns by acknowledging their questions and giving them a few straight answers.
Those are the people SeaWorld should focus on, in a positive and engaging way. By calling everybody tweeting critical questions "bots and trolls" they are once more alienating the most important people in the captivity debate and blatantly disrespect the real concerns these people have. On top of that, the answers to the few questions they have chosen to answer seem to consist of not much more than a deflective text, written by their PR department -- making it look like they don't think people are smart or knowledgeable enough to notice.