Despite Makaio's age and the fact that his mother was not too far away, killer whale mothers form lifelong bonds with their offspring. SeaWorld San Diego's matriarch, Kasatka, has acted aggressively with trainers following the separation of her calves. In 2006, Kasatka repeatedly dragged trainer Ken Peters to the bottom of the pool as a direct result of her daughter Kalia calling for her from an adjacent tank (Click here for video). Breaking a parental-offspring bond, even if temporarily, for the sake of a show does not contribute to the social health of these socially complex creatures.
Killer whales and other animals held in captivity should not be living in an abnormal environment full of potential hazards, nor should they be pushed into unnatural situations. Even though Makaio was not touched by the gate this time around, his decision was a bold one-and solidifies the artificiality of orca captivity.