Friday, July 13, 2007

Canadian Marine Mammal Facilities

At least seven facilities in Canada have kept whales, dolphins and other marine mammals in captivity for various lengths of time. They include Marineland of Canada, the Vancouver Aquarium, the West Edmonton Mall and Sealand of the Pacific.

Marineland of Canada

Located in Niagara Falls, Marineland opened in 1961 with three sea lions on one acre of land and soon acquired bottlenose dolphins, seals, fallow deer and sea turtles. By the end of the 1970’s it had expanded to 1000 acres and housed bears, elephants, bison, lions, tigers, crocodiles, several species of birds and orca whales, among other animals. Most of these species had gone missing from the park by the mid-eighties.

In 1998, Friendship Cove, a $20 million whale habitat opened. At the same time, Marineland applied to the federal government to capture beluga whales in Manitoba’s Churchill estuary but was denied. The following year, Marineland imported three beluga whales from a military facility in Russia. Over the next four years, additional belugas, bottlenose dolphins and walruses were imported from Russia to the park.

In 2004, Arctic Cove opened as the new home for Marineland’s belugas. Future works include a shark and stingray exhibit, an interactive dolphin habitat and a number of aquarium complexes. Marineland also features a number of amusement park rides.

Over the years, the park has been found in violation of a number of environmental regulations and the owner was charged and fined $10,000 by the National Marine Fisheries Service for importing dolphins into the U.S. illegally.

Marineland’s animals have injured numerous people over the years, including a trainer who was dragged around a pool by an orca in 1986 and an 11-year-old girl who was bitten by a beluga in 2001. Countless children have reportedly been trampled, kicked and bitten by many of the park’s several hundred deer.

Currently on display are four orcas, eight bottlenose dolphins and twenty-five belugas, as well as walruses, sea lions, deer, bison, elk and bears. At least 40 cetaceans are believed to have died at Marineland since the early sixties. It is not known how many other animals have died there over the years.

Vancouver Aquarium

The not-for-profit facility opened in 1956 in Vancouver’s Stanley Park. In 1964 a sculptor was hired to find and kill an orca so it could be used as a model for the Aquarium’s whale sculpture. A young male was harpooned but survived. ‘Moby Doll’ was then put in a makeshift pen in Vancouver Harbour but died shortly after from complications brought on by the low salinity of the harbour water.

In 1967, a female orca and two beluga whales from Alaska arrived at the aquarium; three years later, six narwhals were captured for the Aquarium. All six narwhals died within four months.

There are currently four Pacific white-sided dolphins and five beluga whales at the Vancouver Aquarium. It is estimated that twenty-five cetaceans have died at the Aquarium over the years.

West Edmonton Mall

Billed as the world’s largest shopping center, the West Edmonton Mall in Alberta had four bottlenose dolphins captured off the coast of Florida in 1985 for display. Five additional dolphins were born at the WEM in 1992, 1993, 1996 and 2002, respectively, with all of them dying during or shortly after birth. By 2003, all the dolphins except one, Howard, were dead.

In 2004, under pressure from national and international animal protection groups to relocate the remaining dolphin and permanently close the dolphin lagoon, the WEM moved Howard to an aquatic park in the Florida Keys, to live out the rest of his life in the company of other captive dolphins. A year later, Howard died.

Sealand of the Pacific

The now defunct Sealand of the Pacific opened in 1967 in Victoria, British Columbia. It held several bottlenose dolphins around 1969 and 1970, and the first orca captured for Sealand was Chimo, a female albino in 1970. Nine other orcas were captured for the park between 1970 and 1992, with two births occurring at the facility.

In 1991, a part-time trainer slipped and fell into the whale pool after a performance. Three orcas, Tillikum, Nootka IV, and Haida II, dragged and repeatedly submerged the 20-year-old until she drowned. The park closed the following year when the city refused to renew its license.

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