Ocean Park urged to end animal theatre shows and scrap imports

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 July, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 12 July, 2010, 12:00am

Green groups have appealed to Ocean Park to scrap plans to import any more wild creatures and to stop its theatre performances because the animals are 'forced to become money-making machines'.

The Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society and Green Sense criticised the park's plan to capture more wild creatures, including beluga whales, walruses and bottlenose dolphins, for its forthcoming attractions.

Their survival rate and rate of successful breeding is low in captivity. The groups say at least half of the 10 belugas imported by Taiwan's national museum since 2002 have died because they cannot adapt.

The animals that Ocean Park plans to import are not endangered species, but because little is known about how many of them there are, it may be unsustainable to catch them, said Dr Samuel Hung Ka-yiu, the society's chairman.

A park spokesman said catching wild animals was a last alternative and was done only when independent scientific research could prove that their removal was sustainable.

The groups accused the park of hiding facts about the living habitats of wild whales and dolphins and how their animals were captured to shift attention regarding conservation.

'They send a wrong message to the public that visiting the park is getting close to nature and one can only appreciate the dolphins by attending the dolphin shows or even spending more money to touch them,' Hung said. 'This is a commercial activity in which dolphins are forced to become money-making machines.'

The Ocean Park spokesman said it would explain clearly to the public how and where it obtained the creatures. The park recently said it was funding a US$100,000 study to determine if there were enough dolphins in the Solomons Islands to import some to Hong Kong.

Hung suggested that the park stop plans to import any wild animals and eventually stop the ocean theatre.

The groups urged the Professional Teachers' Union to stop selling the park's tickets to members until such measures were in place, which the union's president, Fung Wai-wah, said it would consider. 'It's a popular theme park. They must rectify their education policy.'