Following the death yesterday of 19-year-old orca, Valentin, at Marineland an American animal welfare charity has made an official complaint to the French government. Last week 90% of the controversial park in Antibes was flooded by the torrential rain and the tanks were polluted with flood water.
A statement from Marineland on its Facebook page said. “We are extremely sad to announce the death of Valentin, a killer whale born in the park. We experienced an extremely difficult and unprecedented situation last week and have made every effort to restore the infrastructure devastated by the weather. Trainers, experts and rescuers did everything to save the animals and secure facilities.
“We have at this time no explanation on the cause of death, we will do everything we can to understand it. Analysis will be conducted by a team of veterinary experts.”
However, just four days ago, Marineland reported on social media that despite the floods, “…all marine mammals and birds of the park - dolphins, killer whales, sea lions, penguins, polar bears - are doing well”. Marineland conceded that four turtles, several rays, fish and the collection of rabbits, guinea pigs, chickens, goats and sheep had been wiped out by the massive inundation of water. But the park spokesman added: “The ponies, donkeys, lemurs, llamas, pigs, ferrets, gerbils and rats, and birds all survived. The tropical aquarium facilities have no damage, including the shark aquarium tunnel.”
In the immediate aftermath of the flooding, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) condemned Marineland, saying: “Rays, sharks, turtles and other fish have already died, and marine mammals such as orcas are in critical danger because their tanks are flooded with muddy water and the oxygenation and filtration systems have broken down.
“This dire situation should never have occurred. Animals don’t belong in tiny concrete tanks, and if the orcas and other animals had been in their natural ocean homes they would have been able to swim out of the muddy water in which they’re currently trapped and to safety.
“These social, emotional and intelligent animals who were forcibly bred for profit have been suffering since the day they were born and now their lives are in imminent danger as they try to survive in a pit of muddy water.”
And now, US charity, Friends of Animals, has written to Minister of Agriculture, Stephane Le Foll; Antibes Mayor, Jean Leonetti; Nice Mayor and PACA Senator, Christian Estrosi and President of the Conseil General des Alpes Maritimes, Eric Ciotti to make a formal complaint to the French government. The letter from Carole Raphaelle Davis, Friends of Animals’ director of campaigns, Europe, said: “On behalf of our international membership, we wish to make a formal complaint to the government of France regarding the mistreatment of animals at Marineland in Antibes. Ten days after the deadly storm that ravaged south eastern France killing 20 people and countless animals, we are saddened and outraged to learn of the death of 'Valentin', an orca whale who lost his struggle to survive in a tiny, inhumane, mud-filled enclosure.
“Post-storm, the only information on Marineland’s prisoners - those who died and those who survived, comes from the very people responsible for their wellbeing. To our knowledge, no one from the animal protection community, including marine animal experts, were allowed in to help with rescue efforts. The communiqués from Marineland’s management were vague and propagandistic. There is a news black-out with zero transparency about the status of the animals there.
“An investigator was dispatched who found a scene of total devastation with many animals missing. An employee had been told to not speak about all the deaths. The pictures Marineland was not able to hide show the reality — there was no rescue, only a cover-up. There was no working generator. There was no effective preparedness plan in case of an emergency. This is a catastrophe and a scandal.”
The charity is calling for an independent investigation.
Apetition on Avaazcalling for the closure of Marineland has more than 72,000 signatures.
During the summerwe reported on the controversial park and how hundreds of people, including former Flipper trainer, Ric O'Barry, demonstrated against orcas and dolphins being held in captivity at Marineland.
Valentin’s mother, Freya, was an Icelandic orca, which died at the park in June aged 33. Female orcas in the wild can live up to 50 years. In their natural habitat, orcas can swim up to 100 miles in one day.
The issue of keeping orcas and other cetaceans in tanks has attracted a lot of publicity in particular since the release of the2013 documentary, Blackfish, which focused on Tilikum, an orca at SeaWorld in the USA known to have killed three people, which is thought to be due to the psychosis caused by keeping sentient beings such as Tilikum in confined conditions.
We contacted Marineland for a statement but received no response by the time we published this article.