14 Whales Die at Popular Theme Park, Raising Concerns About Animal Welfare

in Theme Parks

Two children watch a beluga whale

Credit: Marineland of Canada

A popular theme park has seen 14 of its resident whales die over the past four years, sparking concerns about the welfare of its captive creatures.

Keeping marine animals in captivity is a highly controversial topic. Ever since the release of Blackfish (2013), parkgoers have grown increasingly aware of the impact living in captivity has on creatures such as killer whales.

Guests watch an orca show at SeaWorld
Credit: Joseph Stalin via Unsplash

Related: OSHA Reports Woman Bit By Orca at SeaWorld Orlando

The documentary focused on the orca Tilikum, who died at SeaWorld Orlando in 2017. Prior to that, he was involved in three of the four fatal attacks on humans committed by captive killer whales – including that of Dawn Brancheau after a Dine With Shamu show at the park.

As SeaWorld is the best-known theme park group with captive marine animals, it has taken the brunt of public criticism. SeaWorld Orlando, SeaWorld San Diego, and SeaWorld San Antonio have since all ended their orca breeding programs – making their current orcas the final generation to live in SeaWorld parks – while its latest park, SeaWorld Abu Dhabi, is totally orca-free.

A few Orca Whales perform tricks and stunts during a show at SeaWorld as Guests look on from the stands.
Credit: SeaWorld

However, it’s not the only theme park with captive whales and dolphins. Miami Seaquarium recently made headlines after vowing to free its beloved orca Lolita (AKA Tokitae) into the wild. However, Lolita sadly passed away earlier this month before she could make the move.

In Canada, the most popular marine park with captive creatures is Marineland of Canada. Located in Ontario, the park is home to dolphins, sea lions, and beluga whales. Until 2023, it also had walruses and orcas.

For over a decade, animal rights activists have accused the park of keeping its animals in poor conditions. It’s also faced backlash from its former employees, with ex-walrus trainer Philip Demers stating that creatures at Marineland of Canada live in inhumane conditions and experience countless illnesses caused by poor water quality and understaffing.

Marineland billboard
Credit: Marineland of Canada

Several of its animals have also died in tragic circumstances. That includes Kanuck, an orca calf who died while stored in a warehouse and separated from their mother. An unnamed whale also died at the park in 1992 due to drowning.

An investigation by The Canadian Press has now revealed that 14 whales have died at Marineland over the past four years alone. A dolphin is also reported to have died.

It’s thought that 12 beluga whales died at the park within a two-year window. Three more animals have died this year: another beluga whale, a dolphin, and Marineland’s last living killer whale, Kiska.

Two children watch a beluga whale
Credit: Marineland of Canada

Related: Photojournalist Defends Marineland After Massive Ban

In recent years, provincial authorities have reportedly raised concerns about Marineland’s water quality. They also declared that the marine mammals were living in “distress.”

The province later told the park to fix its water in May 2021. Marineland has denied the possibility of a link between beluga whale deaths and the condition of their water. Animal Welfare Services inspectors have apparently visited the park at least 160 times since the province opened its official investigation in 2020.

Marineland of Canada describes itself as an “aquarium, zoo, and amusement park all in one.” Its website claims that it puts “an emphasis on marine and wildlife conservation.”

There are still 37 belugas at Marineland today – nine males who swim in Friendship Cove and 28 females who live in Arctic Cove. Marineland of Canada is currently for sale.

Are you for or against keeping marine mammals in captivity? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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