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.

 

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:

 

 

Marineland is the most thoroughly inspected facility of its kind in the world


Over the last two years, Marineland has been the most thoroughly inspected facility of its kind in the world. The conclusion of all of these inspections – all of them – is that the marine mammals at Marineland are well taken care of and healthy, the facilities are excellent and there is no evidence of animal abuse.

These inspections included a complete independent review by two expert veterinarians on behalf of the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) and multiple unannounced and scheduled inspections by the OSPCA Zoo Inspection team.

The care and treatment of marine mammals is a topic which attracts emotional responses – which Marineland understands. However, often times these emotional responses are not based on factual evidence. Marineland’s care and treatment of marine mammals is based on factual evidence and advice of scientific experts and veterinarians.

We are guided by these experts regarding the health and psychological well-being of our marine mammals. With confidence, we know that Marineland’s marine mammals are healthy and well treated.

Beluga touching moment McDonald

Marine Mammal Enrichment

Enriching the lives of our marine mammals is an integral part of animal care at Marineland and is as important as the nutrition and medical care that they receive. The act of providing stimulating and challenging environments, toys and activities for the animals is called enrichment. The benefits to the animals are many and include, but are not limited to, mental stimulation, physical activity and promotion of the animal’s natural behaviours like exploring, foraging and diving.

Ice Toy 1Ice Toy 3Ice Toy 2Generally, we divide enrichment into two main types: Environmental Enrichment Devices (EED) like toys, balls and brushes and Environmental Enrichment Activities (EEA) like giving a whale a full body water massage with a sprayer hose or playing peek-a-boo at the underwater glass. Who knew aluminum foil could be used like this!

Peek-A-Boo 1Smooshi PeekingSonja & Joce 2Sonja & Joce 1Sometimes, enrichment can actually be both a device and an activity – such as using a long-handled brush (a device) to rub the pectoral fins of a whale (an activity). Even feeding, training or husbandry procedures are viewed as enrichment activities and are treated in that manner so that we can make such activities exciting and stimulating for the animal.

Within each species there are wide ranges of individual preferences on what an animal enjoys, just like humans. Our caregivers devote a great deal of time and effort to get to know individual animals’ preferences in order to create activities and design devices that will engage and enthrall an animal.

When deciding if an EEA or EED is acceptable to use, the safety of the animal is paramount. In the case of EEDs several criteria need to be considered. Does the object have any rough edges? Is it sturdy enough to withstand salt, cold temperatures or the pounding from a 4,500 kg animal? Is it made of safe material? All of these questions and more are taken into account by our marine mammal care team. Marineland has an enrichment craftsman in our carpenter shop who can work with our marine mammal care team to design and build various EEDs as in some cases a suitable device just can’t be found at a store.

Enhancing the lives of the animals in our care is our top priority and enrichment plays a key role in helping us achieve that goal.

The Art of Multitasking…

If you think keeping your home clean is tough, just imagine having to take care of a home filled with all our marine mammals and other animal friends! The challenge in maintaining so many diverse habitats is incredible, and one we take very seriously.

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