China loves orca whale shows. But it may be making the same mistakes US parks did.

March 26, 2017

Marine parks are booming in China, including shows involving killer whales that have become increasingly unpopular in the U.S.

But animal rights activists say China hasn’t learned from the mistakes of SeaWorld and other U.S. marine parks, leaving the whales sick and overcrowded, USA Today reports.

China has 44 ocean theme parks, with 18 more sent to open soon. That’s a 20 percent increase in just two years. The number of animals in captivity doubled to nearly 500 between 2010 and 2015.

Naomi Rose, a marine mammal scientist with the Animal Welfare Institute, recently visited the parks. She said the conditions are putting the trainers in danger, not just the whales.

One show, entitled Chimelong Ocean Kingdom, shows trainers nuzzling with whales. Observers have noticed possible signs of skin infections where the trainers touch them. 

One breeding tank featured six whales packed inside, even though none of them were old enough to mate. 

In other shows, guests can pay to touch bottlenose dolphins. But since they’re not disinfected first, that can lead to diseases. Other experts noted signs of dolphins fighting due to cramped living quarters.

Killer whale shows were deemed illegal in California last September. The documentary “Blackfish” contributed to the shows’ declining popularity. Tilikum, the whale featured in “Blackfish,” died in January.

Mitchel Kalmanson, whose consulting firm has overseen deliveries of whales to China, says show organizers don’t respect the animals’ rights.


China embraces killer whale shows, even as SeaWorld ends them

March 26, 2017

Forget the oohs and aahs. The recent debut of killer whales at China’s largest aquarium here has sparked concerns worldwide that the country is repeating similar mistakes that plagued some U.S. marine parks.

China is experiencing a boom in marine parks as an increasing number of Chinese flock to watch the sea creatures perform. That also has resulted in overcrowded tanks, poor water quality and ignorance about marine mammal illnesses at the attractions.

Park operators are ignoring animal welfare and worker safety, according to animal rights activists.

“They are going through a learning curve that is not necessary and completely outdated — and they’re taking an enormous risk,” said Naomi Rose, marine mammal scientist with the Animal Welfare Institute in Washington, D.C., who recently visited some of China’s largest marine parks. “A trainer will be injured or killed sooner or later. It’d be sad because it’s totally avoidable.”

Between 2010 and 2015, China has seen the number of marine mammals held in captivity doubled to nearly 500, according to the alliance.

“In China, it isn’t that people don’t care but that they aren’t aware of the real situation,” said Keiko Chen, the alliance’s China-based outreach coordinator. “Once people are aware of the real situation behind the scene, they’d feel disgusted and walk away from this form of entertainment.”

China’s Ministry of Agriculture in 2013 established clear guidelines for marine parks, including requirements on water quality, pool size, record-keeping on animals and their care. But it’s unclear how officials ensure compliance, especially with rapid expansion.

A pod of five Chinese white dolphins, which arrived in Chimelong last fall from a shuttered park in Singapore, were living in a turbid tank carpeted with lime-green algae. The population of the dolphins, dubbed “pandas of the ocean,” has dwindled to less than 2,000 in recent years.

At feeding time, staff docent Candy Tang ended her talk to visitors on a hopeful note: “The more we know about these dolphins, the more we’ll cherish them.”

Source: USA

China has launched its first orca-breeding facility, as other countries abandon the practice widely understood to be cruel.

February 27, 2017

There are five male and four female orcas at the country’s new breeding base at Chimelong Ocean Kingdom in Guangdong Province, the Global Times reports. Some 61 orcas are believed to be in captivity today around the world.

Around the world, organizations and states are shutting down breeding practices. SeaWorld, the giant US aquarium and marine life park, ended orca breeding last year. The governor of California signed legislation last week banning orca breeding and orca performances in the state, effective this June, and legislation introduced to the US Congress this month would end orca captivity in the US.  A number of US states have already banned the practice, as have some countries

Orcas in captivity have been shown to have much shorter life-spans and to display abnormal behavior not seen in the wild — one of the reasons public opinion has turned against their captivity and use in performances. Violence, inbreeding and many stillbirths are just some of the issues that go along with an orca breeding program. One of SeaWorld’s stud orcas, Tilikum, was notoriously violent, ultimately killing three people, two of them trainers.

But China is lagging behind public opinion on this one. The country’s economic rise has created a newly wealthy middle class eager for entertainment, and China is in the middle of a marine park building boom. There were 39 facilities in operation last year, with 14 under construction, a feature reveals. They range from flagships like Chimelong, which opened in 2014, to “shopping mall aquariums that shoehorn belugas and other animals into tiny tanks,” the story says.

There are some 500 marine mammals in captivity in China, according to government records and an investigation by the China Cetacean Alliance.

Breeding in captivity may help slow down the capture of orcas, which a 2015 Al Jazeera report said had moved east, driven by a new appetite in China and Russia for marine creatures. The US has not allowed the capture of wild orcas in its waters for a few decades, but the trade only migrated to Iceland, then Japan, and then Russia. The UK nonprofit Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) estimates that at least 16 orcas were captured between 2012 and 2015 from Russia’s Sea of Okhotsk. 

China has also looked south, to Africa, where its influence is growing. Late last year, The Namibian reported that a Chinese company, Welwitschia Aquatic and Wildlife Scientific Research, wanted help from the Namibian Fisheries Ministry to catch and export 10 orcas, 500-1 000 Cape fur seals, 300-500 African penguins, 50-100 Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins, 50-100 common bottlenose dolphins and a bunch of different sharks. This despite the fact that many of these creatures are endangered and protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), making it illegal for any entity to capture and export them.

The company was prepared to invest about $95,000 for the bounty, the report said.

Source: Spuntnik

First Chinese killer whale holding facility opened

February 26, 2017

China’s first killer whale holding facility was formally established in Zhuhai City, south china’s Guangdong Province Friday.

The nine killer whales were settled here three years ago whose ages range from five to 13. Even the smallest killer whale is 1.2 tons in weight and four meters in length.

Each killer whale eats an average of 50 kilos of imported fish every day.


China’s first killer whale breeding base put into operation in Guandong

February 24, 2017

Keepers interact with killer whales at a breeding base of Chimelong Ocean Kingdom in Zhuhai, south China’s Guangdong Province, Feb. 24, 2017. China’s first killer whale breeding base was put into operation on Friday. At present, there are five male and four female killer whales here. (Xinhua/Liu Dawei)

Photo taken on Feb. 24, 2017 shows killer whales at a breeding base of Chimelong Ocean Kingdom in Zhuhai, south China’s Guangdong Province. China’s first killer whale breeding base was put into operation on Friday. At present, there are five male and four female killer whales here. (Xinhua/Liu Dawei)

Source: Global Times