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BRAUN: Beleaguered Marineland target of animal activists again

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Animal Justice has filed a legal complaint with the province on behalf of Kiska, the last remaining Orca at Marineland.

The national animal non-profit is requesting an investigation into the animal’s living conditions.

Viral videos released by Phil Demers, a former trainer at the aquarium, show the animal floating listlessly in her pool. (Demers has been sued in the past by Marineland; his campaign against the institution is profiled in an award-winning 2020 documentary called The Walrus and The Whistleblower.)

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The amusement park in Niagara Falls has been in the crosshairs of animal rights organizations for years. Marineland is part-zoo, part aquarium, and over the years, complaints have been filed over how the park’s animals are housed and treated.

Marineland has always stated that they maintain high standards of care for their animals and abide by the law. At press time, they had not responded to a request for comment.

It was reported just 10 days ago that the park had been ordered to fix its water system over animals in distress. Animal Welfare Services — Onatrio’s animal welfare watchdog —  was investigating the park earlier this year, and inspectors ordered Marineland to make repairs to various devices related to mammal life support systems.

Kiosk is the only captive Orca in the world who lives without other whales or dolphins for companions. She’s been alone since 2011, after Sea World in Orlando sued Marineland for the return of Ikaika, a male orca loaned to the Niagara Falls park, noting concerns over care of the whale.

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In the past, Marineland has stated its opposition to moving Kiska, preferring to import “an age-appropriate companion,” not allowed under the Ontario law.

Marineland began as a circus in the 1950s when late owner John Holer came to Canada from Slovenia. The park opened in the early 1960s, growing slowly to its current 1,000-acre size.

It was highly successful for many years; now viewed as a relic of another time by many, Marineland has long been plagued by controversy.

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 “In Ontario, it’s not only illegal to cause physical distress or suffering to an animal—it’s illegal to cause psychological distress, too,” said Camille Labchuk, executive director of Animal Justice.

“The two new videos of Kiska raise serious concerns that her physical and mental needs are not being met, and we are calling on provincial authorities to launch an urgent investigation and do everything in their power to help Kiska.”

In 2015, Ontario made it illegal to keep Orcas in captivity. The challenges of re-locating Kiska and the other whales and dolphins at Marineland (many cannot fend for themselves outside captivity) meant Marineland was exempted from the new ruling.

With the backing of the provincial government, the hope is that Canada’s first seaside sanctuary will open in Port Hilford, N.S. Until the Whale Sanctuary Project is a reality, Labchuk said animal welfare inspectors here in Ontario can take remedial action to protect Kiska.

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