Last week, we wrote a story about how Marineland was "exempt" from Canada's new ban on whale and dolphin captivity, a bill that passed in the House of Commons last week.
The reality is, Marineland is being held to the same standards as any other marine animal facility under the new law. The "exemptions" they mentioned were just stipulations of a grandfather clause that is allowing facilities to maintain ownership of animals they already have.
In fact, Marineland can no longer breed or import any more whales, porpoises or dolphins, and they can no longer export animals (which was practiced by way of animals trades) unless that animal is being moved somewhere that is in the animal's "best interest."
Though Marineland's press releases implied they would be continuing operations "as usual," Marineland has inevitably been impacted by this new law, just as every facility that was holding marine mammals was.
The law does not allow any exemptions for "research" or "rehabilitation" facilities, despite reports from sources like Global News, that attempted to make that claim.
All animals will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, and there are provisions for rescue and rehabilitation, but Marineland would likely never qualify for this kind of status, as they are a completely landlocked facility located in Niagara, Ontario.
We spoke with Philip Demers, longtime marine animal activist and former Marineland employee who brought it to our attention that Marineland has, in fact, started using animals that have died while in their care to continue to promote the park.
The CBC reported on Zeus' death in January of this year, noting that it was the second walrus death in less than two years. The walrus that died before Zeus was named Sonja, another death that Marineland insisted was a "surprise."
The video above shows Zeus three years before he died, clearly ill and lacking energy but still being made to perform.
Demers also spotted a Marineland TV commercial that was using animals that had passed away to promote the park.
He then filed a complaint with Ad Standards Canada suggesting that this kind of advertising is false and misleading to visitors.
According to Demers, Marineland only has one orca, Kiska, left in their care, in addition to 5 dolphins and 51 belugas. The only walrus that is still alive is Smooshi, a walrus that Demers is working day and night to free from isolation and alleged suffering.
Demers also notes that, despite belugas giving birth to about 6 whales per season, the beluga population at Marineland remains at 51.
The hope is that Marineland's animals do find sanctuary somewhere where they can live out the rest of their life in peace. For Kiska, the orca whale, the ideal location would be something like The Whale Sanctuary Project is working to establish.
For Smooshi, Demers is running a GoFundMe page in the hopes that acquiring enough funds will allow him to continue his fight to free her from isolation, as she is currently the last living walrus at Marineland.
To donate to Phil's cause, head to his GoFundMe page here.
We reached out to Marineland for a statement and this is what they had to say about using photo and video of animals that had been in their care as promotion for the park despite them having died:
"Photos for advertising are generic photos of animals. Marineland does not promote any specific animal. Mr. Demers' allegation is false."
Demers made a point of mentioning that the photos aren't necessarily "generic," - they aren't stock images of marine animals - they are animals that Marineland once owned, before they died.
To learn more about Philip Demers and the work he is doing to end animal suffering, head to his Twitter page @walruswhisperer. To donate to The Whale Sanctuary Project, head to their page here. To read the whole Free Willy Bill, head to the Parliament of Canada's Bill S-203 page here.