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Canada’s last captive walruses move to new SeaWorld in Abu Dhabi

Liam Casey, Canadian Media

Posted on Thursday, March 2, 2023 at 12:08pm EST

Last Updated: Thursday, March 2, 2023 at 4:33pm EST

Canada’s last three remaining captive walruses have been moved to a new marine park in Abu Dhabi.

Smooshi and her baby Koyuk, from SeaWorld in Niagara Falls, Ontario, and Boris, a male walrus from the Quebec Aquarium, moved to a new SeaWorld park in the United Arab Emirates city on Tuesday.

“We are delighted that Boris will be able to benefit from his new environment in Abu Dhabi, where he will live with other walruses in a habitat specially designed for them,” said Marie-Pierrelet, the sanctuary’s conservation director. Sade said. Quebec Aquarium.

SeaWorld said it would bring in large numbers of walruses from zoos and aquariums for its massive new park in Abu Dhabi, which is due to open sometime this year. Comprising five floors, the interior facility will be the first of its kind in the Persian Gulf.

“Their new, state-of-the-art habitat was specifically designed for the species, enabling walruses to live within an enhanced social structure in a dynamic ecosystem that includes fish and other marine animals,” SeaWorld said in a statement. wrote in a statement.

Marineland did not respond to questions, but pointed to its commentary in the local newspaper, the Niagara Falls Review, that its walruses had left the park, escorted by veterinary staff, and that the move was “calmly.” Completed.

“We are confident that they will be well looked after at SeaWorld Abu Dhabi,” Marineland told the paper.

Details of the deal were not disclosed, but a Marineland export license obtained by The Canadian Press shows that their walruses were not sold to SeaWorld, but leased for at least a year.

The Marineland walrus move was prompted by the settlement of a decade-long legal dispute with former trainer Fieldmouth.

In 2013, Marineland sued Demers, accusing him of trespassing in October 2012 when he and other activists broke into the park. They also claimed he was plotting to steal Smooshi and threaten employees.

Demers denies trespassing and conspiring to steal the one-ton walrus. He countersued defamation and abuse of process. Marineland has denied the claims.

The two sides reached a settlement last September, shortly before the trial was due to begin. As part of the settlement, Marineland agreed to move the two walruses to another facility to be with other animals of their kind.

Demers has long called for Smooshi to be removed from Marineland, calling news of the move a “mixed bag”.

“She can leave and go to a brand new state-of-the-art building where money and budget are rarely an issue,” he said. “So there are elements to being truly happy.”

But he said he was also sad.

“I was emotionally overwhelmed,” he said. “It carries a little weight because it’s a long-term pursuit — ten years — for a dream to get her off. There are no more captive walruses in Canada now.”

As part of the agreement, Smooshi and Koyuk have until March 21 to move out.

The deal also includes a final visit for Demers with Smooshi. The duo gained national attention in 2008, as Smooshi became very close to the trainer and would follow him around the park. Demers said he was not allowed near Smooshi on his last visit in September.

The agreement also stipulates that walruses must be transferred to facilities recognized by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

The new Abu Dhabi facility is not accredited by the association, although SeaWorld’s facilities in California, Florida and Texas are.

“The walruses will receive specialized care from trained specialists according to the standards of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums,” SeaWorld said in a statement.

Marineland has been home to walruses since 2001. Marineland said the animals were from Russia and some were orphans while others were in poor health.

Seven walruses have died, with only 2020-born Smooshi and Koyuk surviving.

Boris is the last walrus at the Quebec Aquarium. The park transferred three walruses to Marine Parks of the United States last year.

They moved his two calves, Lakina and Balzak, in November because they had reached sexual maturity, which “required us to separate them to avoid unnecessary breeding.”

The Aquarium of Quebec said the move was “carefully planned by our team and other experts.”

The Canadian Press report was first published on March 2, 2023.

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