Tuesday 11 March 2014

Controvesy and Death at Marineland Canada

Kiska the lone orca at Marineland Canada and her decimated teeth

 Whilst the focus is still on sea world, the other parks seem to slip the net, but they are not better and some are in fact worse.

The park was founded by John Holer, a Slovenian immigrant who had worked for circuses in Europe before coming to Canada in the late 1950s. It first opened in 1961 as "Marine Wonderland and Animal Farm". Holer welded two large steel tanks together and brought in three sea lions and charged one quarter for admission and another to feed the animals. The attraction also featured an underwater show featuring two female swimmers. In 1964 Holer added two dolphins, along with a few other animals and the attraction became known as "Marineland And Game Farm". By 1966, a 2,000 seat "aquatheatre" was completed along with a "grotto" of aquariums and shops.  In the 1970s Kandu the killer whale became the park's major attraction and the "And Game Farm" part of the name was dropped, although it was still referred to as "Marineland And Game Farm" until the mid-1980s in television and radio advertisements. It was also around this time that the park began adding rides such as Dragon Mountain to encourage teenagers and younger children.

Marineland and its owner John Holer have been involved in many controversies throughout the park's history. Most have centered around the concerns of animals rights activists and some politicians, who have expressed concerns about the treatment of animals at the park for many years.
In 1977, The U.S. Department of Fisheries seized six bottlenose dolphins that had been illegally caught by John Holer in the Gulf of Mexico.

In 2001, a member of Parliament, Libby Davies, tabled a private member's bill which aimed to ban the live-capture and trade of whales and dolphins. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans commissioned a scientific study, but Minister Herb Dhaliwal chose not to act on any of the recommendations.

In September 2011, SeaWorld won a court battle with Marineland over the fate of Ikaika The Killer Whale. Ikaika had been originally loaned to Marineland under the terms of a breeding loan agreement between the two organizations, but SeaWorld decided to terminate the agreement due to concerns about Ikaika's mental and physical well-being due to deteriorating conditions at the park. Marineland initially refused to return Ikaika, but was eventually ordered to by the Ontario Superior Court as well as pay $255,000 in compensation to SeaWorld for legal expenses.

On August 15, 2012, the Toronto Star published an article alleging that many sea mammals at Marineland live in inhumane conditions and suffer from a variety of illnesses caused by problems with water quality and chronic under-staffing. John Holer denied the allegations in the report, which was largely based on interviews conducted with former Marineland employees.

On September 10, 2012 the Toronto Star published an article quoting former Marineland supervisor Jim Hammond alleging that Marineland owner, John Holer, had shot one of the baby deer in his park through the windpipe with a 12-gauge shotgun, leaving it to choke on its blood without dying. Hammond claimed the park owner refused his pleas for humane euthanasia.

On December 20, 2012 the Ontario Ministry of the Environment announced an investigation into several mass animal graves at the park. The ministry had no previous knowledge of the graves, as Marineland lacks permits for such use.

On March 5, 2013, the Toronto Star published an article quoting Hammond and a local resident alleging that John Holer had shot two Labrador Retrievers that had escaped a neighbor's house and entered Marineland property. The article also mentioned that Hammond was told by Holer “to check if there were any collars . . . around their necks and if there were, to remove them.”

There has been numerous deaths at Marineland, especially with the cetaceans leaving them with one lone orca Kiska.

 Kiska  was captured in 1979 along with King, Caren and a female who remained unnamed. Kiska and the female were sold to Marineland of Canada while King and Caren went to Kamogawa Sea World. The female was transferred to Kamogawa and died soon after. Kiska stayed at Marineland in King Waldorf Theater and soon NootkaV, KanduVII, and Junior arrived. Junior died in 1994.  Kiska gave birth to 3 healthy calves sired by KanduVII in King Waldorf Theatre: MLC-OO-B9202 in 1992, who drowned on October 25, 1992 (lived for 62 days), Kanuck in 1994, who died in 1998 of Candidiasis Traumatic Shock, and Nova in 1996, who died in 2001 of pneumonia and starvation.

 KanduVII died the next year on Christmas Eve. NootkaV was sent to be with Kiska and Athena, but she tried to steal Athena from Kiska since all her calves were deceased. Ikaika was brought to Marineland in 2006, and he and Athena got along very well despite being 2 years apart. Kiska was separated from Athena until NootkaV's death in 2008. During the time Kiska, Ike, and Athena spent together, trainers were thinking of resuming waterworks, though not in King Waldorf Theatre. Athena died in 2009 and Kiska was left with Ike. Ikaika moved to SeaWorld San Diego on November 13, 2011 leaving Kiska alone.

Kiska spends the majority of her time floating listlessly on the surface of her tank, no company and no trainers around. 

17 orcas have died whilst in Marineland's care
Baby Kiva
Baby Spooky
Kandu 2
Kandu V11
Nootka 5


There are currently 43 Beluga's at Marineland, 27 of which have been caught in the wild. The Beluga captures are as traumatic as the dolphin and orca captures.

20 Beluga's have died whilst in Marineland's care.

On May 28, baby beluga Skoot died after a two-hour assault by two adult male belugas in an incident former trainers say points to under staffing at the park. The evening attack unfolded in front of a guide untrained and helpless to intervene. The males bit Skoot’s head and body, spun her around by the tail and bashed her into a rock wall where she stuck. After two trainers finally arrived to pull Skoot out of the pool, she convulsed and died in their arms. Holer says Skoot was attacked because she had contracted bacterial meningitis, explaining: “If animals see another animal is going to die, they kill it.”


There are 5 bottlenose dolphins at Marineland who were all wild caught from the Black Sea. 29 dolphins have died here all were taken from the wild.

 Five female dolphins — Sonar, Lida, Marina, Echo and Tsu — swam almost continuously in bad water in a concrete pool in a facility called the barn. Former employees say they lay at the bottom in murky green water or breached and thrashed wildly, their reactions changing with the chemicals. Their skin fell off in chunks, their color darkened and they refused to eat. This lasted intermittently for eight months, from October 2011 until just before show season began in May 2012 when their water was changed.
There are many incidents at Marineland, which go unpunished due to the lack of proper regulations in Canada.

Some of the other incidents are below

 The barn.  A warehouse with rows of water pens is home to about a dozen seals, sea lions & walruses

The Bears

“Tourists watch the bears up to their chests in water, straining upward and slamming into each other to catch a single corn pop,” she said in an interview. During one of her visits, she was horrified to realize an inert bear was actually dead. Soon after a bulldozer came in and scooped up the carcass to take it to a mass grave on the Marineland property.

Several trainers told the Star about a massive grave. In one particularly gruesome story, a former trainer told of having to pull in a crew to dig up a killer whale carcass because the brain hadn’t been preserved after the necropsy.

Rose chronicled bears with rotting teeth from all the refined sugars and patches of missing fur. She criticized the lack of space and argues that only dominant aggressive males have den access. “Bears cannot exercise normal behaviors due to the presence of too many dominant males.”

As well as the candy, bears get a daily diet that includes lettuce, tomatoes, grapes, oranges and beef, according to Hammond.

However, Hammond says there has to be a “delicate balance” in feeding the bears so that they are hungry enough to go after corn pops tossed by tourists from a platform. After the park closes and the bears are fed, Hammond said fights are common because they don’t get enough food

15 black bears are held in a cramped enclosure with four dens, two feeding stations, a moat with filthy water and a tourist booth that sells corn pops in sugar cones. Tourists lean over a barrier above and toss the sugar pops down to the bears, a practice animal behaviorists have criticized.

“Bears are sentient creatures, highly intelligent and complex with daily routines (apart from winter denning) in the wild,” said Poulsen. “The bears are apparently there only so humans can feed them corn pops,” she said.

It was tough, said Hammond, to hear newborn cubs squealing in the spring, knowing they would end up dead, devoured by adult males. There was no enclosure for birthing mothers and no way to keep the young protected. Hammond said you’d hear them and then, “one week you’d go in to clean and there would be only silence.”

He said at least four cubs — two pairs born in separate years — perished in this way. He also said he complained to Holer but was told that it’s the circle of life — some animals live and some die — and there was nothing to be done


It was the death of a little Red deer in the summer of 2010 that was the final straw for Hammond at Marineland. The deer’s foreleg was badly broken, with the bone sticking out, and it had to be killed. Hammond accepted that, but it was how the deer died he’ll never forget. Hammond, an 11-year veteran at the sprawling facility, begged owner John Holer to bring in a vet to euthanize the animal. He says Holer refused, instead taking out his 12-gauge shotgun, shooting the deer and then driving off. But the wounded animal didn’t die.

“He was twitching quite a bit and his head would flop up and down,” Hammond recalled. The deer had been shot through the windpipe and was gasping for air.

He called Holer at home to say the deer was still alive and asked if he could call the vet to “do it right” or would Holer come back. According to Hammond, Holer refused, telling him: “I just got back to the house and got sitting down . . . You’ve got a knife in the back of the wagon.” Hammond acted reluctantly.

“I don’t want to dramatize it, but when you do that to an animal, you remember it,” said Hammond, a big guy who clasped his hands and stared bleakly at the floor. “And it was a dull knife . . . If you take a dull knife across hair, it’s very hard to cut. It was like trying to cut into concrete. And you’re there not for a few seconds, it’s a few minutes.”

He paused and struggled to speak. “I’m ashamed.”

In a visit Sept. 5 to the tourist attraction, the Star saw about 80 Sika and Fallow deer, far fewer than earlier in the summer. In July, for example, there were dozens more deer, some of them limping and some with grotesque growths and wounds on their bodies. Hammond said the tumours are the result of inbreeding. (The park also has larger Red deer.)

Several Marineland sources, all involved with marine mammals, said there was a massive cleanup in the wake of the Star series once it was announced there would be an inspection by authorities

Sea lions Baker and Sandy had to be pulled repeatedly from the water and confined in dry cages, in one case for more than two months, to limit further harm to their already damaged eyes. Videos shot in 2011 and 2012 shows them writhing in pain or plunging their heads into a single bucket of clean water. Sandy often sits like a statue, dry as a bone. There’s no lens in Baker’s left eye. When a trainer put him back in the water in April, he barked and it flew out.

Walrus Sonja shows the damage in her eyes too.

Larry lies behind bars in a pen, his eyes red and swollen. The harbour seal with “an amazing little personality” who arrived at Marineland about eight years ago is now a shadow of his former self. After repeated exposure to unhealthy water, he has gone blind. Six of the park’s seven seals are blind, have impaired vision or have had serious eye problems because of exposure to unhealthy water, former trainers say. One trainer recalls how animals often squinted at trainers and struggled to perform after chlorine spikes in the stadium pool. Poor conditions drove some of the eight former employees to leave and were a major factor in the departure of others.

In September 2013 it was reported that the Ontario College of Veterinarians were investigating vets who had worked at Marineland.  The results of the investigation would be sent to the College’s executive committee. It has options that include a decision to close the file with “no further concerns” or take such action as a “letter of advice.” In these cases, nothing is released to the public.

In the meantime John Holer carries on like normal

Places to protest -
Stephen Harper - Canadian Parliament


There is also a protest to attend on the 17th March link  


  1. I lived in Niagara Falls, visited Marineland on many occasions, was sneaked in late at night to see the whales and other water animals, thanks to a friend who worked there. I am in shock and horrified by what is happening today. Whales do die in captivity, that is normal as they are in shock or get sick. Like a horse, if a whale gets sick they are terminal, generally speaking. Today, it seems these types of businesses as so many businesses are all about the money and forget about the animal or the consumer, as long as the pocket book is good then they just keep doing what they will to survive the business. Whales aren't the killers, humans are and we are killing them just by keeping them and not looking out for their welfare. If this was your child would you allow him or her to be in a cage day in and day out, no but then again the answer I'd get is they are not human. Humans are the ultimate animal while right in front of us, the animal, be it whale, tiger or bear are the real humans, they don't kill without purpose, they don't attack without reasoning and they don't take any more than what they need to survive. Humans kill without purpose, they attack without reasoning and they take way more than they need to survive. Who's the animal?

  2. This just breaks my heart...I'm ashamed. Karma needs to step in and deal with the owner. Sine he only cares about the cash it would be nice to see him broke...except the animals would suffer more than they already are. I cannot believe the govt is not stepping in after these video were made public. Those poor, starving animals...bored, in pain, lonely and hungry.