【Video】Investigation footage of Yehliu Ocean World, Hualien Farglory Ocean Park（觀看點1）
The increasing communication between Taiwan and China is affecting the survival and welfare of countless animals. In order to raise the awareness of animal protection, organizations from Taiwan, Hong Kong, China, the United Kingdom and the United States hold a press conference jointly on 1st Dec. to release the investigation report on the thriving marine mammal performance facilities and the travelling packages containing cetacean performances provided by travel agencies in Taiwan and China. We appeal to the public to stop seeing shows that would cause animals to suffer. We also discourage traveling agencies from promoting package tours containing animal shows.
Yu Min Chen, the Director of Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan (EAST), said that along with the rising awareness of conservation around the globe, the public has reflected and grown more and more dubious about keeping cetaceans in captivity, and now more and more countries are legislating against or restricting keeping cetaceans in captivity (Appendix). Sadly, the marine mammal shows in east and south-east Asia are still in the ascendant. Take Taiwan as an example, there are four facilities which keep marine mammals in captivity and provide marine mammal performances, namely Yehliu Ocean World, Hulien Farglory Ocean Park, National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium and Wanpi World Safari Zoo. In total, they keep 49 animals in captivity, including belugas, dolphins, sea lions, seals and manatees. Since Yehliu Ocean World first purchased dolphins captured form the waters around Peng-hu and trained them to perform, hundreds of marine mammals have been sacrificed during the past 30 years, and most of these animals were captured from the wild.
Figure 1. Marine parks in China (both running and under construction) and the numbers of cetaceans in captive
|Marine parks in Taiwan and Hong Kong and the numbers of marine mammals in captive.|
The marine mammal performance industry in China is booming, according to a research conducted by China Cetacean Alliance (CCA) formed jointly by China, HK, Taiwan, UK and US organizations, both of the numbers of marine parks and wild cetaceans captured increased substantially. For the past five years, the marine mammal performance industry in China captured and imported over 50 cetaceans every year on average. Over 250 wild cetaceans have been sent to marine parks in China merely since 2010. Take the second most common cetacean belugas as an example, the 114 of them are almost all captured from the wild near Russia, and these captures have contributed to the decline of the population of wild belugas in the sea of Okhotsk. As for the notorious Taiji in Japan, more than half of the cetaceans captured there were sold to China. The thriving marine park industry in China is surely contributing to hunting wild cetaceans, threatening wild populations and abusing animals.
|Belugas in Dalian Laohutan Ocean Park forced to make contact with visitors.(Image: China Cetacean Alliance)||Dolphins in Qujiang Ocean World Park performing hula-loops with their muzzles.(Image: China Cetacean Alliance)|
|Dolphins following the trainers’ order to strand on the stage in Hangzhou Polar Ocean Park.(Image: China Cetacean Alliance)||Dolphins following the trainers’ order to strand on the stage in Chime Long Ocean Kingdom.(Image: EAST)|
Currently, there is no animal welfare legislation in China, and there is no official information that can be scrutinized by the public. There’s no way to know the numbers of cetaceans in captivity in the past or at present, the numbers or proportion of breeding in captivity, capture in the wild and mortalities. According to the CCA investigation, the Chimelong Group Co. based in Zhuhai, Guangzhou has bought 7 orcas recently, and all of them are kept in Zhouhai, but official record in CITES database has only shown 2 of them so far. The discrepancy between the numbers suggests that Chimelong Group Co. may be in violation of China’s and CITES regulations. The Chinese government should investigate this matter.
The secretary-general of China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation Chun Mei Hu pointed out that the number of marine parks in China is rapidly expanding, there are marine parks in 17 provinces and 4 municipalities, 39 of them in operation and 14 under construction (figure 1), which is opposite to the global trend. According to the information acquired during the investigation, the 39 running marine parks hold 491 cetaceans, 11 species cetaceans in captivity, the most common ones are bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops spp) and belugas (Delphinapterus leucas) (Figure 2). 36 out of the 39 running marine parks host animal shows and more than half of the 39 parks provide tourists with opportunities to touch the cetaceans if they pay. Despite the marine parks claim to educate the public, the visitors barely obtain any correct information or knowledge about cetaceans during these activities.
|Figure2. Numbers of captive cetaceans by species|
CCA investigators visited 14 marine parks during Nov. 2014 to May 2015 and recorded all the cetacean performances. They found that none of the parks provided shelter facilities for cetaceans to hide from the tourists or each other. “During the investigation, we saw that the captive environment is extremely small, barren and boring,” Chun Mei Hu said, “ being under this major stress caused the cetaceans to bite, strike and open their mouths to intimidate each other, and even open their mouths to intimidate the visitors knocking on the glass of the tank.” In addition, misleading information was given to visitors during the explanation of performances and in the Powerpoints shown in the parks, including:
- dolphins “like to perform and to entertain the audience” and they “like to meet with humans”
- circling in captive belugas is a natural behavior
- the cetaceans in captivity are happy to move to and live in marine parks
- captive cetaceans in marine parks and their keepers are like families
The performances in Da Lien Sheng Ya Sea World(大連聖亞海洋世界) even portrayed belugas as the mounts of a human prince and the dolphins assistants of the prince in defeating the monsters and save the princess. In all the field studies, no performance mentioned cetaceans’ social connections, natural behaviors, natural habitats, diet, distribution around the world and relevant ecological knowledge. No performance mentioned the deterioration of the marine environment and the threats cetaceans are facing, let alone tell the audience what they can do to help conserve the cetaceans and preserve their natural habitats.
The marine mammal scientist of Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) Dr. Noami Rose said that the captive environment can not satisfy the complex physiological and behavioral needs of cetaceans. In addition to performance, captivity itself is an inhumane and abusing act to those highly intelligent cetaceans. In their natural environment, cetaceans travel 40 to150 kilometers a day on average, their average swimming speed is between 5 to 30 kilometers per hour, and can dive up to 10 to 300 meters deep. However, the average measurements of pools of Chinese marine parks are 6 meters deep, 15 meters wide and 20 meters long. The facilities are absolutely not able to satisfy the complicated behavioral needs of the cetaceans in captivity, their natural behaviors are seriously restricted.
Wild cetaceans keep close social connection based on kinship, some species even stay with their family for their entire lives. According to the information acquired, the cetaceans in the marine parks were not captured and imported at the same time, therefore it’s unlikely that they are from the same group. The individuals in cetacean societies are tightly connected; taking one member away from a wild group might cause the group to fall apart. This can lead to survival problems for orcas as they feed and avoid risks in groups. Keeping non-related animals together in captivity may cause negative social interactions between them.
The show pools in all marine parks are lacking enrichment, there were almost nothing in the pools. Many holding tanks were shabby and worn out, suspended solids and feces were floating in the water. Not being able to perform their natural behavior, the cetaceans turn to gnawing on the metal bars or concrete walls of the pool, which in turn damaged their teeth. The breakage of the teeth leaves the pulp of some teeth exposed. If this is not dealt with, the decaying pulp forms a cavity that leads to food plugging and may eventually cause systemic infection, forming a serious animal health issue.
The noise is another nightmare for cetacean in captivity and performances. Almost all shows play music at high decibel levels. Large numbers of tourists also contribute to the noise problem. To animals largely dependent on their listening ability like cetaceans, loud noises are particularly detrimental. During the field studies, CCA has recorded music as loud as 110 decibels playing in the background, almost as loud as a working electric saw. Noises both above and under water cause cetaceans serious stress. Other than tourists and shows, mechanical equipment in marine parks such as pumps and other machines also produce loud noises under water (Couquiaud, 2005).
“Hong Kong Ocean Park purchased more than 100 cetaceans including bottlenose dolphins, orcas, false killer whales, etc. There is little restriction on buying in animals and low publicity of animal mortalities.” the Chairman of Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society Dr. Samuel Hung said,” Lots of youngster died because of breeding in captivity throughout these years. These all suggest that the Ocean Park is promoting cruelly keeping animals in captivity.” While the global trend against keeping cetaceans in captivity is growing, Hong Kong Ocean Park is undoubtedly setting a bad example.” “Since the visitors of the Ocean Park are mainly foreign tourists from China and Taiwan, it is crucial to raise the awareness of the problems in keeping cetaceans in captivity and animal protection in Hong Kong, Taiwan and China.” He added.
“Many provinces in China are starting to put out tourism advertisements in Taiwan, many of which include animal shows in the itinerary. Take the Chime Long Ocean Kingdom in Zhuhail, Guangzhou as an example, their advertisement can be easily seen on the streets in Taipei, at the Taipei Train Station and at the bus stops.” The CEO of Kuroshio Ocean Education Foundation (KOEF) Hui Jun Zhang said,” And the animal performance industry in Taiwan is not falling behind in this vicious competition; 13 Taiwanese theme parks including Yehliu Ocean World, Hulien Farglory Ocean Park and Aquarium and Wanpi World Safari Zoo sent agents to China to meet with Chinese travel agencies , hold the press conference “love Taiwan theme park festival(愛上我臺灣好樂園)” together and sign strategic agreements to cultivate the entertainment market in Taiwan and create a profitable tourism environment across the Taiwan Strait. According to the survey conducted by KOEF & EAST, there are up to 263 traveling packages containing Cetacean performance provided by the top 10 qualified travel agencies, and this is just a random sample of their websites. These packages are mainly trips to Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Jeju, Okinawa, Palau and Hokkaido. If the trips are to areas outside of Asia, then travelling packages with the keyword “dolphin” are mostly whale watching packages. This suggests that the awareness of animal protection in Asia needs to be improved. No matter one is travelling to Hong Kong or China, not seeing animal shows is an important act of conservation.
Chinese and foreign animal protection organizations appeal to travel agencies and tourists in Taiwan, China and Hong Kong for saying “NO” to animal shows and urge the government in all three places to ban the import and export on cetaceans, breeding cetaceans in captivity and constructing new parks or expanding existing parks, unless the goal is to improve health and welfare of cetaceans already in captivity. We also hope that the governments in Taiwan, China and Hong Kong will cooperate with non-governmental organizations to arrange for retirement of cetaceans in sanctuaries, or even release them back to ocean when possible, based on the evaluation with IUCN guidelines .
[Appendix] the global trend on banning the keeping of cetaceans in captivity and performance industries
Zoos, aquariums, dolphinariums or marine parks in about 60 countries around the world keep cetaceans in captivity. Most of them are used in public exhibition and entertainment, and the rest are used in scientific researches and military activities or were rescued after stranded (WDC, 2015).
Due to the rising awareness of conservation, the public has grown more and more dubious about keeping cetaceans in captivity and using them in performances, and now there are precedents in banning keeping cetaceans in captivity or importing cetaceans for keeping them in captivity. Croatia, Cyprus, Hungary, Slovenia and Switzerland have banned the keeping of cetaceans in captivity, or importing cetaceans to keep in captivity. Chile and Costa Rica banned the keeping of cetaceans in 2005 and 2013 respectively. India has also legislate to prohibit further development of dolphinariums and acknowledge that dolphins are “non-human persons“. Greece banned animal shows in 2012 . In England, since the standards of dolphinariums have been raised in the 1990s, no institution has been able to fulfill the requirements and all the facilities holding cetaceans have closed.
In 2014 Oct., the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a measure stating that cetaceans, or whales, dolphins and porpoises, have the right to be free from life in captivity. The city council of Malibu, California, issued a proclamation in February proclaiming that all whales and dolphins swimming offshore have the "right to their own freedom and lives." Exhibiting captive cetaceans in public in South Carolina is prohibited since 1992 , and Maui County passed a law that bans the display of captive cetaceans as well .
Article 24 of Wildlife Conservation Act has been amended and provides that “No import or export of live wildlife or Protected Wildlife products is allowed without prior approval from the NPA.” “The import or export of live marine mammalian wildlife or products thereof is limited to those hunted by indigenous people for their subsistence within their traditional territories from the country of origin.” “The management and penal provisions of this Act shall apply to the import, export, trade, display or exhibit of live General marine mammalian wildlife or products thereof that unauthorized by the NPA. The subject live specimens or products may be confiscated.”