Walrus Smooshi and her calf Koyuk have left SeaWorld in Niagara Falls, Ontario, for SeaWorld Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates after activists first raised concerns about their health and safety in years.
Marineland whistleblower Phil Demers, who was Smooshi’s former trainer, told CBC Hamilton that the two walruses left the park on Tuesday morning.
In a statement to CBC Hamilton on Wednesday, SeaWorld said the walruses from SeaWorld and the Quebec Aquarium were “safely transported to SeaWorld Abu Dhabi.”
Marineland and its lawyers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Demers was embroiled in a decade-long legal dispute with Marineland that ended last year.a lawsuit Submitted in 2013 Marineland accused Demers of trespassing and conspiring to steal the 800-pound Smooshi. Demers countersued for defamation and abuse of process.
The parties agreed to relocate Smooshi and Koyuk, thus dropping the legal action.
Koyuk was born in June 2021, but Demers previously stated that the two have been separated since Koyuk’s birth so that Smooshi could perform on the show.
According to Demers, part of the settlement agreement stipulates that the walrus and her calf will be relocated to a facility accredited by the North American Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
SeaWorld Abu Dhabi wasn’t on the list — but he wasn’t too upset. He said that, as far as he understood, it was a new facility.
“I’m really happy … it’s going to be a big improvement, a greatly improved facility,” Demers said.
According to its website, SeaWorld Abu Dhabi is scheduled to open on Yas Island sometime in 2023 and will be the region’s “first marine life theme park”. It was built next to the region’s “first dedicated marine research, rescue, rehabilitation and return centre”, which is already operational, it said.
In its emailed statement, SeaWorld said the walruses will “live in herds in modern professional environments that promote their conservation around the world…We are eager to introduce visitors to these amazing animals and hear their stories,” explain.
It added that their transfer to the area was “taken in accordance with international transport agreements”.
However, given that the move violated the settlement agreement with the company, Demers said he would pursue legal action to seek financial damages.
“My lawyer, he was appalled that Marineland would violate our settlement so egregiously,” he said.
“We’re going to take our time and make sure we do it in a deliberate way.”
Marineland has faced criticism in the past for its handling of animals.
Last year, Crown Prosecutors Detention fee Niagara police are suing Marineland for illegally hosting dolphin and whale shows.
Despite this, police said in December that there was a separate, ongoing investigation. They would not provide further details at the time.
There are also concerns about Marineland’s treatment of the whale Kiska, which animal law nonprofit Animal Justice has called “The loneliest orca in the world.”