Dead Barney the whale still whopping attraction

Jo Bowman

Barney the whale is being promoted to tourists as an attraction at Ocean Park - more than a month after he died.

Tourist brochures on the park and the false killer whale's role in daily marine shows were being given to tourists at Hong Kong Tourist Association counters yesterday despite Barney being dead.

At the park, souvenir shops were selling killer whale stuffed toys and caps, key rings, fridge magnets and posters.

Barney, the last of Ocean Park's 11 false killer whales, died of a bacterial lung disease called melioidosis on October 10.

A reporter yesterday visited association counters in Tsim Sha Tsui and Central asking for information on Ocean Park.

Both times she was given a brochure describing the park's Marine Land: 'It's all-aquatic action at the 3,500-seat Ocean Theatre as a false killer whale, dolphins and sea lions perform antics to amaze and delight.' When asked about the animals in the show, staff did not volunteer the fact that Barney was dead until, at the Central counter, the whale was specifically mentioned by the reporter.

A 'Save the whales and dolphins' poster greets visitors as they alight from the park's cable car and head for Ocean Theatre.

The 25-minute show, featuring six performing dolphins and four sea lions, makes no mention of 16-year-old Barney's absence.

'Very good point,' association spokesman Peter Randall said last night of the misleading brochures.

'It will be a while before the revised literature will be out, but I shall make sure that all our information counters do let our poor visitors know.' Ocean Park spokeswoman Anita Lee Kit-yiu said the park's in-house brochures and Web site had been updated since Barney's death.

New leaflets would be supplied to the association 'but we need a little bit of time'.

Miss Lee said it was not the park's usual practice to announce the death of any of its animals, and defended the sale of whale merchandise.

'Some of the souvenirs are quite general - they don't mention in particular Ocean Park's killer whales,' she said.

'It's just an idea for education about marine life.'