Ocean Park should stick to roller coasters and stop being both a zoo and a circus

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 September, 2011, 12:00am


Ocean Park chairman Allan Zeman has done the right thing by choosing not to import beluga whales from Russia.

Due to the public outcry both in Hong Kong and around the globe, it became clear that the majority are opposed to animals being taken from their homes, transported across the globe and confined to small barren prison tanks.

Beluga whales swim several hundred kilometers per day in their natural environment, so even the most well-equipped aquarium and staff with the best of intentions could never come close to replicating the ocean. They are also one of the most social breeds of whale in existence, with pods ranging from hundreds to thousands of members.

While some in the minority such as Scott Smyth have voiced their complaints ('Ocean Park needs to decide whether it wants to continue keeping live animals', September 3), I can only reply with a question - how is it not cruel to confine such animals to small conditions? Although I guess someone who wishes to send the resident jellyfish to restaurants and the dolphins to polluted rivers isn't too concerned about animal welfare.

Ocean Park is both a zoo and a circus - combining the worst of two unique horror stories. While animals in zoos are deprived of a natural life, social interaction and any excitement whatsoever, animals in circuses are tormented during training. Why? It's because the results that trainers want are movements and motions that these animals would never display in the wild, unless of course you've seen a bear riding a bicycle in Alaska and have kept it to yourself.

Ocean Park has made the first step in the right direction by not imprisoning these whales, but much is left to be done.

Take, for instance, the dolphins currently in captivity. Ric O'Barry was once a dolphin trainer but, after seeing first-hand the misery he was causing, he quit and funded The Dolphin Project in 1970. For the past 41 years, he has dedicated his life to educating people of the horrors faced by dolphins in captivity, and freed as many as he could along the way.

Ocean Park is blessed with a beautiful location, home to the most exciting roller coasters in town, hot-air balloons and carousel rides that bring out the child in all of us. Do we really need to see animals suffering to make a good family outing? I think not.

Jason Baker, vice-president of international campaigns, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) Asia