Food Preparation at Marineland For Bears

Black bears at Marineland, November 29, 2016

Black bears at Marineland, November 29, 2016

Despite allegations that Marineland stores food in our land animal morgue, in reality this is completely untrue. The Canadian Press has footage that shows none of the dog food in the food preparation area, and none of the actual food fed to bears in the land animal morgue.

We feed our bears a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables and fish. We are able to secure human grade produce for our bears, that is past its best before date, but not expired — and our team manually sorts through this food, removing any pieces that appear mouldy, discoloured or otherwise unfit for bears. The fish is sourced from the marine mammal kitchen on the other side of the park and brought over in buckets, just prior to the bears being fed so it can be prepared with the rest of their daily meal.

The produce in the images is awaiting preparation. Like every food pantry or refrigerator, the produce is in its original packaging from the food supply service. The next stage will require employees to trim, cull, select, and prepare the produce for the bears, then mix and portion the food servings to ensure they receive a balanced diet. Any inedible, spoiled, or otherwise unacceptable elements would be removed for disposal at this point.

As for the final disposition of the diet we serve at Marineland, the complainant claimed the majority of our bears suffer from chronic diarrhea, something that is absolutely false. There are no bears at Marineland suffering from unaddressed diarrhea, and to suggest spring water and human grade fish and produce are causing gastro issues for animals known to be attracted to rotting flesh and garbage in the wild is preposterous. As with all the other claims by Last Chance for Animals, this scatological allegation is not worth further consideration.

 

Gia and the LCA

Gia the beluga whale, at Marineland November 29, 2016

Gia the beluga whale, at Marineland November 29, 2016

Marineland has been the target of other false and misinformed attacks from the radical animal activist group, Last Chance for Animals since 2013. In January of 2016, they issued one such assault that included a claim about Gia, one of the beluga whales in our care.

According to LCA, “Gia, a juvenile beluga who was initially separated from her mother by accident, was left in a shallow isolation pool for three months while she became emaciated”. This certainly sounds like a terrible situation, except this view from Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles is very different from the one in our park. Something got distorted over those 4,000 kilometres.

This allegation and others by LCA sparked an investigation by the OSPCA, who were rightfully worried about reports that a beluga would be purposely left isolated and starved. Except, like all claims coming from LCA regarding Marineland, the truth ended up being remarkably different.

According to the veterinary and park staff who care for Gia and her mother daily, when Gia was two and a half years old she was not at the same weight as the rest of the belugas of the same age. She was still being fed by her mother, but her mother was pregnant and due that summer. Gia would eat some fish that was provided to her, but not enough.

Staff grew concerned at her lack of growth and took steps to correct the issue. At first, they tried supplementing her fish with oils, but it wasn’t giving them the results they wanted. The decision was made to place her in our Friendship Cove to receive more intensive treatment and where she could be monitored frequently. Gia soon began increasing her diet. It was a gradual gain, but she soon gained enough weight to be safely reintroduced to the main pod.

When all this had been explained and proven to the satisfaction of OSPCA investigators, no charges were laid. In fact, no changes in care or procedures were even requested, because there simply was no truth to the LCA allegations. Once again, they were merely trumped up complaints meant to discredit and defame Marineland.

Last Chance for Animals brought up their lies about Gia again this week to defend their latest round of fundraising/complaints against Marineland and we felt that once again, we’d respond to their falsehoods.

 

Anti-Marineland Activists Playing Veterinarian With Video – Again

Marineland, Niagara Falls – Why would animal rights activists sit on footage of an animal they believed to be suffering for 103 days before releasing it? Today, August 31, 2016 anti-Marineland protesters released a video filmed of a deer on May 21, 2016 titled ‘Injured deer at Marineland Canada’ with the following sensational description “Marineland Canada is under intense scrutiny for their treatment of whales and dolphins, but this neglect extends well beyond marine mammals.”

In reality, anti-Marineland activists have filmed a scenario common to all land based mammals who set foot or hoof in an environment where pebbles lurk. The deer in question had a pebble caught in his hoof, similar to when a beachgoer has a pebble in their shoe. This is an experience that no one, not even a deer, would enjoy. At Marineland, our staff respond to situations like these by approaching the animal and removing the pebble from their hoof – a service not offered to deer in the wild.

The catastrophized medical diagnoses offered by individuals relying on poor quality footage shot on cellphone cameras is once again wrong. Despite the ill-informed prophecies of individuals who lack any formal veterinary training, once again selective footage of one reality has been presented as something completely different.

In the real world where Marineland’s mammals live and continue to thrive, our animal care team diligently provide unparalleled levels of care for the mammals who live at our park. We embrace the frequent visits from the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) and continue to follow best practices of animal care, despite the ill-informed opinions of non-experts who exclusively rely on amateur videos to feed their need to find something to fault at Marineland.

Marineland Canada is the most regulated and inspected facility of its kind and offers a fun -filled destination for families and friends, while also providing an opportunity to interact with a variety of species that most in the Great Lakes region would otherwise be unable to see. Our park continues to remain committed to providing high quality care to all animals who call Marineland home and continues to rely on formally educated and qualified veterinary experts who have real time interaction with our animals to do so.

We welcome inquiries from media on this latest false claim from anti-Marineland activists and others where a reality check is needed and will be happy to work with any government sanctioned regulator or investigator who is interested in knowing more about our land based mammal care practices.

 

Why Do the Deer Antlers Look Different in Spring and Fall?

If you picture a male deer, chances are you imagine a pair of bony antlers. If you were to come across a male deer in late fall, that’s exactly what you’d see – majestic racks of antlers. Deer antlers are made of bone, unlike the horns of animals like goats and sheep which are made of hair-like tissue that continually grows in layers over a bony center.

If you visit Marineland in the spring or early summer, you may see our deer with a beautiful fuzzy coating over their growing antlers. The growing antler is covered by skin with numerous blood vessels called velvet. This velvet gives them that fuzzy look. As spring turns to summer, these growing antlers turn from a soft, spongy feel to hard bone.

So what happens in between? In early August the bone antler stops growing and the blood flow is cut off to the velvet coating. This causes the velvet to dry and start to fall off in patches, eventually revealing the pure bone antler beneath. It can look strange, and guests are not allowed to walk among the deer once this process starts, but it’s a perfectly natural and pain-free transition for the animal.

In the winter, after breeding season is over, deer lose their antlers completely. A number of factors regulate when deer shed their antlers, and they don’t always lose both at the same time. If you plan a visit to Marineland at different times through the season, take a look at the deer to see this amazing natural phenomenon in action.

Video of Whitetail Buck Shedding Antler Velvet

They’re Born This Way – Adaptations for an Aquatic Environment

Beluga whales often swim in shallow waters at depths that barely cover their bodies. In general they are not thought of as deep diving marine mammals, but they are capable of making deep dives and staying under water for as long as 15 minutes. Why are they able to do that?

Nahanni

Like other marine mammals, beluga whales possess a number of physiological adaptations that we humans do not have that allow them to dive to deep depths and stay under water for longer periods of time than we can.

During dives beluga whales have a slower heart rate. Also, while diving, blood is shunted away from tissues in their bodies that can tolerate low levels of oxygen towards the heart, lungs and brain where more oxygen is needed. Beluga whales possess more oxygen in their blood than most other animals. And, last, but not least, the muscle of belugas has a high content of an oxygen-binding protein called myoglobin. This protein stores oxygen and prevents muscle oxygen deficiency.

All of these adaptations enable the beluga whale to conserve oxygen while under water and do something we humans can only do through artificial means.

Are Bears Really Anti-Social?

Bears are generally thought of as strictly anti-social, solitary animals, but this is not correct. Habitat impediments, such as range size, prevent bears from interacting with each other very often in the wild. When they do meet competition for food or a mate can result in an encounter that is rather hostile. However, when competition for food or a mate is absent, bears have been known to strike up friendly relationships with each other and have even been observed playing together for long periods of time. This play typically takes the form of wrestling matches. Such play behaviour is often interpreted as aggression when it’s just two bears deciding to have some fun.

BearsWrestling

It’s true that bears do not live in herds or packs, but they can and do co-exist in close proximity to each other where food sources are plentiful and their numbers high. They will share home ranges with other bears by establishing a social hierarchy based on size, age and disposition. A bear will establish and maintain its place in the hierarchy by posturing or acting aggressively. In most cases these exhibitions of aggression do not escalate to a full-fledged altercation against another individual with the less dominant bear eventually backing down.

The stone structure located in Marineland's Bear Country is quite large and contains many caves and tunnels providing the bears with shade and protection from bad weather.

The stone structure located in Marineland’s Bear Country is quite large and contains many caves and tunnels providing the bears with shade and protection from bad weather.

To go from living solitary to living social shows the ability of the bear to adapt its behaviour based on changes to its environment.

Contrary to popular belief, the solitary bear is not SO solitary.

Check Out This Video About Marineland’s Beluga Whales!

The marine mammal caregivers at Marineland know the animals well. For example, one caregiver, Tali, has worked with a beluga whale for seven years. “To see him going from this younger animal, who was just learning to do things, to this animal who has a huge behavioral repertoire, is really fascinating” said Tali.

The video shows our caregivers and belugas during one of their husbandry training sessions. The husbandry behaviours taught to our marine mammals include presenting their fins or mouth for inspection. Learning and practising these behaviours make the animal more comfortable when it’s time for our veterinarians to examine them or carry out a necessary medical procedure.

Adorable Video of Playful Sea Lions

Sea lions love to have fun! “For sea lions, their play is based on each other,” explains Dan Macdonald, marine mammal caregiver. They are very social animals so the supervised play is perfect for them. Toys are added to these play sessions to enhance the experience for the animals.

Now, even though playtime is important, so are daily check-ups. Dan Macdonald explains that the sea lions are examined daily. Daily check ups include inspecting their bodies, mouths and teeth.

Check out the video to see the marine mammal caregivers interacting with Marineland’s sea lions:

Life of a Marine Mammal Caregiver

The most important part of a marine mammal caregiver’s job is keeping routine records of all of the animals.

“We have sheets for each of the animals. We’ll write down what they did that day, their behavior that day and how they are interacting with the other animals they are living with,” said Dan Macdonald, marine mammal caregiver.

These records are used to communicate with other caregivers and veterinary staff, so they can stay up to date with each animal.

The bond between a caregiver and marine mammal is strong. The Marineland caregivers feel connected with the animals and love getting to know the individual personalities.

Check out this video to find out what a typical day is like for a marine mammal caregiver:

 

 

Do You Know How Playful Walruses Are?

Dan Macdonald, a marine mammal caregiver at Marineland explains, “A lot of the behind the scene care for walruses is play.”

Walruses are social and love to play together. They have even more fun if toys are incorporated. Now, what toys does a walrus like? Balls, huge logs and icebergs are the current favourites!

The walruses have their own community and can be selective about whom they want to spend time with. For example, Dan Macdonald explains, “Sonja really likes to live and be with Buttercup. So, when we get a chance to, we make sure they get to spend as much time as possible with each other.”

Now isn’t that cute? Check out the video here: