Arctic wildlife headed for Ocean Park

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    from todays Standard:

    The 29-year-old Ocean Park, enjoying unprecedented popularity since the opening of Disneyland last September, has secured more than HK$4 billion in loans for a five-year redevelopment plan scheduled to begin in June. "We have to make money…" Zeman said in an interview with The Standard and Sing Tao Daily. Ocean Park will eventually buy eight more animal species, which will include the Beluga whale, polar bears, penguins, walruses and exotic birds from various countries. "Having the right facilities to house these animals is most important. These facilities will be built during phase one to accommodate the animals we will buy in phase two," Zeman said. Besides facilities for the animals, phase one will see the construction of a waterfront plaza, complete with a restaurant in an aquarium, an underground train, new thrill rides, a rainforest and a greater variety of shops. In the aquarium restaurant, guests will be able to dine while fish swim around them. "Guests will also be able to go down in a cage to see the sharks," Zeman said…. "Professional and world-class theme parks have hotels and I want overseas tourists to bring their children to Ocean Park," Zeman said. He said he would like the park to become an animal research center. "We would like to see the young people of Hong Kong grow up with animals and have an awareness of animal conservancy," Zeman said.

    Park facelift set with loan deals Hmm, really have to wonder just what visitors will learn about "aminal conservancy" by such measures, including bringing Arctic animals to a place in the tropics. No room, then, for educating people about local wildlife? – or maybe that just seems to boring. Instead, we bring animals in with no intention of even captive breeding to help populations. (Has been achieved in HK Zoological and Botanical Gardens.) Instead of puff about "animal conservancy", Zeman should perhaps be honest: having such exotic animals should draw crowds, and bring in the money – and that’s what Ocean Park really cares about. Just to cover belugas:

    Distribution: Belugas are found in arctic regions. There are thought to be five main populations: One in the Bering, Chukchi and Okhotsk Seas; the second in high-arctic Canada and west Greenland; a third in Hudson Bay and James Bay (Canada); a fourth in the Svalbard area (north of Norway); and the fifth and smallest population in the Gulf of St Lawrence, Canada. They generally spend summer in shallow bays and estuaries and winter in areas of pack-ice, breathing through cracks and holes in the ice. Population Size: Some populations are vulnerable. The Cook Inlet beluga whales in Alaska, for example, were recognised as "depleted" under the Marine Mammal Protection Act on 31 May 2000. Threats: Hunting/Whaling, Habitat loss, Human disturbance, Chemical pollution, Captivity industry

    Beluga whale Distribution and Threats

    The status of the whole beluga species is cause for concern, with the International Whaling Commission (IWC) concluding earlier this year that only four out of 29 beluga populations are ‘stable’. Belugas are threatened across their Arctic range by oil and gas development, over-hunting, over-fishing, vessel traffic, industrial development and pollution. Some populations are in serious decline.

    Russia breaks its promise to ban beluga exports

    Stressed whales Belugas are found in arctic and sub arctic waters. In these oceans, belugas travel for hundreds of miles. In captivity like other confined animals, belugas can display stereotyped behaviours, such as swimming in circles or figures of eight. In captivity with no environmental enrichment, and acoustically reflective walls, these animals become stressed.

    Beluga whales – So, Allan Zeman can preside over "an animal research centre" where they can study highly stressed individuals of a threatened species, living in a relatively tiny tank when in the wild they can travel many kilometres, as well as dive deep in search of wild food. Seems about as useful as Japan’s "scientific" whaling. This only considers the "usefulness" of the Belugas; what of polar bears, penguins, exotic birds…


    American Zoos Assocition has a report re visitor learning at zoos

    I haven’t read, but just seen in email:

    The Aza conclusion: "Little to no systematic research has been conducted on the impact of visits to zoos and aquariums on visitor conservation knowledge, awareness, affect, or behavior." So much for their claims that zoos are important for purposes of conservation …

    – So might ask: of the tens of thousands of visitors to Ocean Park on a busy day, how many of them depart as supporters of conservation?

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