Canadian Walruses Rented to New SeaWorld Park

Canada’s three remaining captive walruses have been sent to the United Arab Emirates. The marine mammals will be far from their natural home of the Arctic Ocean and subarctic seas, and displayed for entertainment at a new SeaWorld facility.

Smooshi and her baby, Koyuk, were from Marineland in Niagara Falls, while Boris was at the Québec Aquarium. All three walruses were shipped thousands of miles to Abu Dhabi last week. According to documents seen by the Canadian Press, the three animals have been loaned to SeaWorld on a one-year lease.

Smooshi’s story has received international media attention after former Marineland trainer Phil Demers exposed alleged negligent treatment of animals and troubling conditions at the notorious marine park. As part of a settlement agreement for its decade-long lawsuit against the former trainer, Maineland committed to transferring Smooshi and Koyuk to a new facility, where they can join others of their species so they could have some semblance of a normal walrus social structure.

While the new facility may offer better conditions than the suffering walruses endured at Marineland, wild animals’ complex needs can never be fully met by Marineland, the Québec Aquarium, or SeaWorld Abu Dhabi.

Data from Ceta-Base’s tracking reveals that the American theme-park company has also been shipping other animals to the new Abu Dhabi facility, including 24 dolphins from the US. Two of the dolphins were “rescued” from the wild by SeaWorld, only to be put on public display at a theme park or used to breed more dolphins instead of being rehabilitated or released to a sanctuary.

Should Smooshi, Koyuk, and Boris remain with SeaWorld, it may mark the end of walrus captivity in Canada. If passed, a new bill called the Jane Goodall Act would protect hundreds of wild species from the cruelty of captivity—including walruses. Support the bill by letting government ministers and Senate caucus leaders know that wild animals like walruses don’t belong in captivity.

There are no federal laws or regulations protecting animals like walruses from being kept or forced to perform in zoos in Canada. And there are few rules protecting animals from being bred in Canada and trafficked around the world to other facilities. Ontario, home of Marineland, doesn’t even require a license or permit to open a zoo. Public support for zoos is at an all-time low, and now is the time to demand that Ontario closes its roadside zoos and transition the remaining facilities into sanctuaries.

Banner: Bridget Laudien | We Animals Media