The ocean theme park industry is expanding rapidly in China. There are 43 ocean theme parks in operation and a further 17 under construction, demonstrating an increasing desire amongst the Chinese public to see captive cetaceans. This is in contrast to the situation in many other parts of the world where the popularity of keeping cetaceans in captivity is rapidly waning. The China Cetacean Alliance has prepared a REPORT describing the situation with ocean theme parks in China and the many human and environmental concerns related to the display of captive cetaceans.
Imagine being forced to live your life in a small windowless room devoid of anything or anyone familiar to you. That’s what faces a dolphin or whale captured from the wild for display in a zoo or aquarium—violently taken from his or her community, and confined in a concrete tank with no hope of ever being returned to the wild or leading a natural life. Many people who love dolphins and whales (also known as cetaceans) have no idea how barren and unnatural their lives are in captivity. Dolphins in tanks may look as though they are smiling, but this is a quirk of their anatomy (dolphins “smile” even when they are dead); the reality of their lives is tragic.
Orcas in particular do not thrive or even survive well in captivity. The document Killer Controversy: Why Orcas Should no Longer be Kept in Captivity summarizes the available data on the many impacts orcas suffer when they are held in concrete tanks. In China, there are currently nine orcas being held in Chimelong Ocean Kingdom, all of them captured in Russia from the Sea of Okhotsk starting in 2012. Other Chinese ocean theme parks are considering orca exhibits. It is important for everyone to understand the terrible suffering these whales experience when they are torn from their families in the wild and put into concrete tanks.