Sea lion show resumes a day after trainer hurt

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 January, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 January, 2009, 12:00am

A marine mammal conservationist questioned the educational value of Ocean Park's sea lion feeding show, which continued yesterday, a day after an animal injured its trainer during showtime.

The display continued at the park's Pacific Pier, but Jumanji, the 12-year-old female that scratched the trainer's left forearm in an afternoon show known as 'trainer's talk and feeding demonstration', was quarantined for a week.

About one hundred people gathered around the pool where eight sea lions were on display. The three public feeding sessions went ahead as usual, with the 4pm session sold out within minutes. Visitors paid HK$25 and got three small fish to throw to the animals.

Samuel Hung Ka-yiu, chairman of the Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society, doubted the display had much educational value. 'I'm not sure what feeding activities can teach, but for sure it earns money for the park.'

A park does not have to make animals do stunts and tricks to educate, Mr Hung said. Surveys by international conservation organisations, such as the World Society for the Protection of Animals, have long indicated that such performances run against the animals' natural behaviour and serve only as entertainment.

A park spokeswoman said the feeding sessions required sea lions to only do what they do in nature. But Mr Hung said: 'Even making sea lions wave is out of their natural behaviour. Have you ever seen them wave in the wild?'

He said parks in California and Vancouver simply allowed mammals space to swim.

Meanwhile, the park held a meeting on the incident, but the spokeswoman declined to disclose details.

On Thursday, Jumanji scratched a trainer on the forearm with her teeth, and he was discharged from hospital on the same day. It was incorrectly reported that the incident did not occur during a show.

Board members have raised questions over the management of animals. Just over a month ago the giant panda An An bit his keeper, and on December 3 a Chinese sturgeon, a gift from Beijing, died.