CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER
Groups say whales should be in ocean, not Six Flags park
Plain Dealer Reporter
Aurora - A number of international organizations have mobilized to oppose the transfer of killer whales from Argentina and France to Six Flags Worlds of Adventure.
"We want the trade in orcas and dolphins to end," said Mark Berman, assistant director of the International Marine Mammal Project at Earth Island Institute in San Francisco. "It is time these amusement parks realize that whales and dolphins deserve to be in the ocean. There is no educational value to see a whale swimming in circles in a concrete box and doing stupid tricks."
Berman said his agency and others, including the Humane Society for the United States, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society of the United Kingdom and In Defense of Animals, will file comments opposing the transfer to the National Marine and Fisheries Service. That federal agency will determine if a permit should be issued to Six Flags to import the animals.
Six Flags wants to acquire Shouka, a female, from Marineland Antibes in France, and Shamenk, a male, from Acuario Mundo Marino in Buenos Aires on breeding loans. The park has been seeking killer whales since January, when it purchased Sea World from Anheuser-Busch. That company transferred its three killer whales to other Sea World parks.
"We fully expected that some people would be against our bringing whales or any other animals into our facility," said Debbie Nauser, vice president of public relations for Six Flags Inc. "We are fully expecting other groups to be in support of the move."
She said Six Flags' staff and facilities are excellent and breeding the orcas would expand the diversity of the species.
While Shouka was born at Marineland and lives with her family, Shamenk was acquired by Mundo Marino in 1992 after he was stranded on a beach. His female companion died last year. Berman said Argentinian environmental groups want Shamenk released back into the wild. He said they question whether he was stranded or forced in by fishermen for the benefit of the aquarium.
Nauser said the Argentinian government took care of Shamenk after he was stranded, then turned him over to the marine park.
In addition to submitting written comments, due by Dec. 31, opponents can request a public hearing. Six Flags must also get a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Last year a federal permit was issued to Sea World to import a killer whale from Vancouver. The female, who was ill when transported, died within six months of arriving. Sea World owns all 21 whales in captivity in the United States.
Berman said that if the organizations fail in blocking the Six Flags permits, they can take legal action. "We will contemplate anything to end the trade with orcas," he said.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE IMPORTS:
-Six Flags wants to acquire Shouka, a female, from Marineland Antibes in France, and Shamenk, a male, from Acuario Mundo Marino in Buenos Aires on breeding loans.
-The park has been seeking killer whales since January, when it purchased Sea World from Anheuser-Busch.
-Shamenk was aquired by Mundo Marino after a forced stranding in 1992 in Argentina. Since the death of his tank female tank mate last year, he has been alone. Little is known about the orcas of Argentina, making it risky to mix him with a member of a different orca population, since Argentina orcas have different feeding and behavior patterns. (Argentina transits are known to beach themselves for sea lions, something no other orca population in the world does.) Yet, he would be a PERFECT canidate for release, since he has been in captivity for such a short time.
-Shouka, the female orca from France, was captive born.
Bringing in more orcas would not only continue the trade of killer whales, but encourage it. If this import is not stopped, nothing is stopping other marine parks, such as Sea World, from buying orcas from countries. For example, Russia and Japan, where orcas have been known to be captured and sold into the captivity industry (especially with Russia's unprotected wild orca population), would be two countries where orcas could be purchesed easily- buying orcas from these countries would support the capture of more orcas. Nothing is stopping any park from applying for a permit to bring in more whales, all they need is a signal- and that signal would be the successful import of Shouka and Shamenk.
Office of Protected Resources
1315 East-West Highway
Silver Spring Md. 20910.