Killer Whales Bred for Captivity: China's First Orca Breeding Facility Highlights Country's Need for Animal Welfare Law
Despite protests to ultimately ban wildlife captivity, China is still currently operating its first orca-breeding facility.
The Chimelong Group, one of the country's biggest amusement park operators, opened the animal-breeding program on Feb. 24 at the Chimelong Ocean Kingdom. National Geographic reported that at present, the facility has five males and four females ranging from age five to 13.
The facility aims to make a business out of these poor creatures by breeding them for tourists' entertainment. It advertises itself as a facility which aims to raise people's awareness on whale protection, conservation and breeding.
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In an email to Quartz, the Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society said the Chimelong's move might further encourage a boost of the aquarium industry in China, risking more killer whales to captivity.
Orcas (Orcinus orca), also known as killer whales, are the top predators of the sea. However, these supposed to be "deadly beasts" are being preyed on by humans. The southern resident orca population was listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act in 2005, citing that their population of 85 would not permit their recovery goal.
These animals have been victims of the surging aquatic tourism all over the world. Many countries have already recognized the implications of tourism on their population, thereby banning orca captivity. The latest to ban the practice is SeaWorld, one of USA's biggest theme parks.
Smithsonian Magazine mentioned a 2015 report prepared by the China Cetacean Alliance entitled "Ocean Theme Parks: A Look Inside China's Growing Captive Cetacean Industry." The report revealed that the country has 39 operational ocean theme parks, housing 491 cetaceans from 11 different species, and it's building 14 more parks.
China is notorious for keeping wild animals in captivity for business and entertainment. The country made headlines last year for keeping a bear named "pizza" in a small, artificial, glass enclosure inside a mall in Guangzhou. The bear was dubbed as the "world's saddest polar bear" because of his poor condition. Fortunately, he was moved to a wildlife facility due to protests from animal rights groups.
One of the reasons why animal rights are overlooked in China is because the country currently has no animal welfare law. Animal rights activists are hoping that the government would soon draft and enable a law that would recognize the animals' welfare.