The Life Of Kiska

I’m developing an iron law of marine park reporting, which is: the more detail you know the worse marine parks sound. Rarely do additional facts make you feel better about marine parks.

This law just received serious reinforcement by a devastating report in Canada’s The Star newspaper about the life of Kiska, the lone remaining killer whale at Marineland in Ontario.

Marineland has been in the news recently, over animal abuse allegations by former staffers. This new report does nothing to change the dismal picture of Marineland they painted.

Here’s what The Star reports on Kiska:

Kiska, the killer whale, swims alone in her pool at Marineland, often followed by a trail of her own blood.

Her tail has been bleeding off and on since July but has been getting progressively worse, according to Christine Santos, who has been one of Kiska’s primary trainers. She described the bleeding as “gushing” last week….


The Star obtained recent video of Kiska showing a blood trail from cuts in her tail. Once one of Marineland’s best show animals, Santos said she now spends her days swimming listlessly and scratching parts of her body against the sides and sharp fibreglass grates that run the circumference of her Friendship Cove pool.

Treating her is difficult because Kiska, about 37, has refused to go into the medical pool for the past month. Her behaviour has been “breaking down for some time,” said Santos. She won’t even present her tail for blood samples.

Santos believes there aren’t enough trainers to give Kiska and 39 beluga whales enough attention at Friendship and Arctic Coves.

Santos was fired Wednesday. She said she was asked to sign a document that included a statement she’d never seen animal abuse at Marineland. She didn’t sign because “it didn’t feel right.”

Marineland called Santos’ allegations inaccurate and false. Here’s a photo of Kiska, trailing blood, published by The Star (click image for full size).

The Star story also has some pretty gruesome details about a beluga transfer that went wrong:

Other whales have been bloodied at the Niagara Falls tourist park. On Apr. 11, 2012, after female beluga Charmin was left on a trailer when a crane jammed during a move to another pool, photos show the area soaked with blood…


Last April, staffers moved two belugas, Tofino, a male, and Charmin from Friendship Cove to the performing stadium pool. At the end of Charmin’s move, the crane set to lift her in a sling over to the pool jammed, and she was stuck on the flatbed, her tail thrashing against the metal slats and edges of the trailer, according to former senior trainer Phil Demers.

“It was one of the worst days of my life,” says Demers, who helped in the move. “It went on for at least an hour. . . . There was blood on Charmin, on the ground, on the side of the pool, on the pads — it was sprayed all over. The worst, though, was that she lay there all that time with the pressure of her heavy weight (about 1,350 kilograms) on her internal organs — so bad.”

Here’s a photo of Charmin’s bloody transfer (full set is here). Is it something that  NOAA and the rest of us should keep in mind when considering what sort of stresses could be involved in Georgia Aquarium’s proposed transfer of 18 belugas from northern Russia to Atlanta, and then on to SeaWorld, Shedd Aquarium, and Mystic Aquarium?

Beluga Charmin

All the staffer accounts that have been leaking out of Marineland this summer certainly paint Marineland as a poorly managed park where animals suffer daily (video here).

It’s possible that Marineland is, in fact, the worst park in North America. But who knows for sure? How much do we really know about all the other marine parks? It is not until insiders step forward and put the facts out in the light, or the parks open up to real scrutiny, that we can really know the reality.

(h/t to JF for alerting me to this story)