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Op-Ed: Marineland under investigation over mass animal graves

By Elizabeth Batt     Dec 20, 2012 in Environment
Niagara Falls - As Marineland's owner John Holer continues to walk through questionable inspections and bandy about lawsuits, he now faces a new challenge. Canada's provincial Environment Ministry has plans to inspect Holer's mass graves of animals.
John Holer appears to be an expert at falling in a bucket of animal dung and emerging smelling of roses. Despite former employee abuse claims — which appear to be supported by video and photographic evidence captured at the Niagara Falls marine park, Holer has blithely managed to dance his way through inspection after inspection and clear into the courtroom.
But will he be so lucky this time?
According to the Toronto Star, Canada's "Provincial Environment Ministry is poised this week for a sweeping inspection of Marineland’s mass graves of animals — graves it had no idea existed because the park has no permits."
Former employees claim that Holer has been burying his dead on Marineland property since it first opened in 1961. The graves of "whales, dolphins, sea lions, seals and walruses, as well as bears, bison, deer and other animals" explained the Star, are close to water sources, including waters that feed into the iconic Niagara Falls.
The proposed inspection came courtesy of the Toronto newspaper itself. "The ministry found out about the mass graves" claims the Star, when we "called to ask about the legality and environmental impact of massive burial sites."
According to Environment Ministry spokesperson Kate Jordan there are protocols surrounding the proper way to bury animals, which include periodic inspections of the sites, plus soil and water testing for contamination. Waste permits are also required to dispose of animal corpses. Permits it appears that Marineland may not hold.
Former senior marine mammal trainer Phil Demers, once described how he was ordered to dig up the carcass of orca Kandu to retrieve brain tissue samples. When they reached Kandu's head, it was lying in roughly six inches of water.
To date the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA) has cleared Marineland of any wrongdoing.
CAZA conducted an unannounced inspection at the Niagara Falls theme park on Nov. 27 to assess several areas in the park, including the health of Kiska (the lone orca still in residence at Marineland). Their inspection concluded: "There were no concerns identified during the inspection that the commission need react to at this time."
Tim Zimmermann responded to CAZA's conclusions in this Dec. 12 article:
Hmm. That’s a pretty different story than that told by former trainers. But who are you going to believe: the people who devoted their lives to caring for the animals or the industry group dedicated to promoting business and profits?
File it under another totally predictable outcome. I guess we’ll have to wait and see whether Ontario’s government decides to take any action, or not.
Just yesterday, Marineland Animal Defense (M.A.D.) posted this message on its Facebook page along with tweets from former trainer Phil Demers:
BREAKING: OSPCA investigators were at Marineland today. Not reported on are allegations that visit was not "unannounced" and that Marineland's full time vet was not in attendance.
Untitled Demers
If, as Demers suggests, Marineland's full time vet was not in attendance for such an important inspection surely this shows a blatant disregard and an obvious lack of concern for the inspection's outcome. Why?
Meanwhile, Marineland lawyers are pressing ahead with a $1.5 million lawsuit against former trainer Christine Santos for speaking out on the conditions of Marineland's animals. Santos and her boyfriend Phil Demers have retained a lawyer and are committed to defending against what they say are "intimidating tactics."
The duo hopes to fight this case in court with the evidence that they have in hand, but they have been forced to establish a fundraising page in light of mounting legal fees.
As for the Ministry, it has labeled the inspection a "high priority." Teams are expected to begin investigations this next week. Jordan told the Star that their inspectors are allowed to enter the premises without consent and Marineland’s former land animal supervisor Jim Hammond, informed the newspaper that there are four mass graves — two holding "more than 1,000 animals."
This should be interesting.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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