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Ed Goodall Ed is WDC's head of intergovernmental engagement. He meets with world leaders to...

WDC position on beluga whale shows at Changfeng Ocean World in Shanghai

WDC position on beluga whale shows at Changfeng Ocean World in Shanghai

WDC shares the concerns of our supporters regarding the beluga shows currently operating at Merlin’s facility in Shanghai and have passed your concerns onto Merlin in support of our own.

We remain committed to achieving the best result for the whales held in a country that has imported a large number of whales and dolphins in the last few years. WDC is seeking rehabilitation/release and/or retirement for these belugas as soon as any regulatory hurdles can be overcome.

In the short-term, we believe that the belugas are currently better off where they are than being moved to another facility within China and missing out on the opportunity of being rehabilitated at some point in the near future. It is of vital importance that if a release is viable then it is back to the same wild population from where the belugas were originally taken to give the project the best possible chance of success.

Beluga whale shows at Changfeng Ocean World in Shanghai

As requested by Merlin, WDC has provided detailed recommendations on immediate steps that could be taken and proposals for the long term rehabilitation of the belugas, noting that two are relatively young and one is considerably older and had been in captivity for a substantial part of her life. Our recommendations included the removal of all entertainment elements of the shows.

Merlin also sought veterinary advice on the continued social and welfare considerations for the whales and have decided that a certain level of stimulation was required especially noting the age of one of the whales. WDC continues to advocate that unnatural displays are not necessary and could cease without affecting the whales welfare.

WDC were also asked to consider issues related to the rehabilitation of the belugas in light of the complex regulatory environment within China. WDC has provided advice and this is being considered, amongst a range of options, by the senior Merlin team. WDC advice and recommendations have covered the full spectrum of options, including the full rehabilitation of the whales to the wild.

WDC is at the forefront of calling for an end to whale and dolphin captivity around the world. We, recognize this is not just about shouting about the issues, but are committed to finding viable solutions for those within the commercial world that have asked for help in finding and delivering these solutions. It’s not an easy road, and in some ways it would be simpler to just stand and shout from the sidelines, but we have seen too much suffering and cruelty to let these opportunities slip through our hands. We believe that these projects could help bring about the end of whale and dolphin captivity once and for all.  Whilst these initiatives never move at the speed we would love them to, we believe they will have a significant impact on the debate.  We shall continue our work with Merlin to establish a sanctuary and continue our fight to end whale and dolphin captivity, and to create a world where every whale and dolphin is safe and free.

SeaLife and WDC

SeaLife is a subsidiary of Merlin Entertainments and operates aquariums in Europe and the United States. WDC has been working with SeaLife on conservation and welfare issues for nearly twenty years.

In that time, SeaLife has, further to working with WDC, adopted a policy of opposing whale and dolphin captivity and has worked with WDC to campaign for an end to commercial whaling and the trade in live whales and dolphins, including blocking exports of dolphins from Russia and stopping the export of whale bones from Norway. Furthermore, last year SeaLife joined with WDC in successfully opposing the import of wild-caught belugas from Russia into the USA. 

Merlin Entertainments and WDC

Merlin Entertainments is the parent company of SeaLife and owns and operates visitor attractions around the world as diverse as Madame Tussauds, and the London Eye. As part of Merlin’s international expansion they have very occasionally purchased theme parks that hold whales and dolphins. 

Merlin has been clear to WDC that they do not wish to hold the whales and dolphins or be involved in the longterm public display of cetaceans. Merlin therefore asked WDC to advise on the options it should consider to ensure the best welfare solutions for the dolphins and whales that have come into its care.

 What do we do with those whales and dolphins held in captivity?

This is an issue that we have faced for decades. The captive whale and dolphin industry has always argued there is nowhere to go for the individuals they hold, and therefore they are better off remaining in captivity.

We believe we are at a turning point in the history of whale and dolphin captivity and we need to ensure that we do not jeopardise the giant strides we have made. To do so would mean pushing back the day when all captive whale and dolphin shows end. Further to our expert advice, WDC and Merlin are seeking to create the world’s first viable solution to this problem.  We are working right now with Merlin on the development of a European sanctuary for the bottlenose dolphins that have come into Merlin’s care. This facility will act as a rehabilitation, retirement sanctuary, with the potential for future release for all dolphins held in captive facilities across Europe.

The sanctuary project is an exciting one but a huge undertaking, and will require substantial financial investment. As a charity, WDC needs to work with a company that not only has the money but that also has knowledge and expertise required to build and maintain such a facility. It has to be done right for the sake of the welfare of the whales and dolphins.  WDC has advised on potential locations and how such a facility will function, as well as the physical and psychological needs of the dolphins and we continue to be part of the sanctuary project going forward.  

The success of this dolphin sanctuary will send a strong message to other marine parks that a viable alternative to keeping whales and dolphins in concrete tanks has been achieved.

We thank you for your understanding and support.