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Canada’s Marineland theme park charged over its handling of black bears

Wille Okon 161 May 31, 2023

A theme park in Canada is facing charges for its handling of black bears in captivity, placing fresh scrutiny on a park that animal rights activists have long sought to shut down.

Ontario’s ministry of the solicitor general said on Wednesday it had laid the charges against Marineland, an amusement park on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. The province said the park had failed to comply with an order related to its captive American black bears.

The province did not provide additional information about the charges, laid under a section of the law allowing provincial inspectors to issue an order to help animals that may be in distress.

It is unclear how many bears remain at the facility. In 2016, the province’s animal welfare agency charged Marineland with five counts of cruelty, including failing to provide adequate and appropriate food and water for its 35 American black bears. The next year, it faced six more counts of cruelty.

Marineland, which has long been a target for activists who argue the park has a moral responsibility to release the animals it keeps in captivity, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the new charges.

The charges are the latest in a string of high-profile incidents at the park.

Two months ago, a captive whale named Kiska, dubbed the “world’s loneliest orca” died from a bacterial infection after spending four decades at Marineland. In a video clip before her death, the 47-year old whale is seen drifting listlessly in her tank.

Marineland continues to advertise its beluga whales, some of which it has sold in recent months to aquariums in the United States for “research purposes”, according to the export permits.

In December 2022, Ontario prosecutors stayed animal cruelty charges against Marineland following allegations it was using dolphins and whales for entertainment, violating a federal law that bans cetacean captivity.

The previous year, Ontario’s Animal Welfare Services found all marine mammals at Marineland were in distress due to poor water quality, a claim the park disputes. The province says an inspection of the facility’s waters, which began in 2021 remains ongoing.

In 2019, the park came under scrutiny after Marineland said two deer were killed in a stampede allegedly caused by a father and son taunting the animals. Days after the stampede, the park announced that a heart attack was believed to be the cause of death for an 18-year-old walrus named Apollo. Apollo was the fourth walrus to die in the park over a two-year period. The last remaining walrus, a female called Smooshi, was recently moved to SeaWorld Abu Dhabi.