Dr. Ingrid Visser (Free Morgan Foundation) & Co. banned from entering the premises of Loro Parque

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It is well known that in November 2011, at the request of the authorities of the Netherlands, Loro Parque has accepted at its modern OrcaOcean installations a young female orca Morgan who was found helpless, in an extremely poor condition in the waters of the Wadden Sea in June 2010. This decision to transfer the orca to Loro Parque was made based on the opinions of the experts who came to the decision that it was no longer possible to return her to the wild. Therefore, this solution was the only way to save her life. Here, in Loro Parque, she is now fully integrated into the existing orca group.

Nevertheless, ever since Loro Parque has accepted the animal in need of help, the radical activists from Free Morgan Foundation led by Ingrid Visser visit the park, normally before court hearings or before events aimed at discrediting Loro Parque. Inventing arguments supported by manipulated photographs, they are communicating false information to the public in order to advocate for the release of the orcas into the wild.

Despite the unfriendly attitude of these activists and their smear campaigns against Loro Parque, the park continued to allow them access to its installations, since Loro Parque, recognized by TripAdvisor as the Best Zoo in the World, is deeply committed to the efforts of nature protection and animal welfare and has nothing to hide.  On the contrary, Loro Parque obtained many national and international awards and accreditations which confirm its high standards of operation and first class installations.

In particular, in 2017 Loro Parque became the first European zoo to receive the Humane Conservation recognition from the renowned U.S. animal welfare organization – the American Humane Association. In addition to that, Loro Parque passed the audit realized by Global Spirit, an independent organization whose specialists receive training from Born Free Foundation, to confirm its compliance to the Global Standards in Animal Welfare established by the British Association of Tour Operators (ABTA) and obtained, as the first zoo ever, a 100% compliance certificate!

Last week, Loro Parque received yet another visit from Free Morgan Foundation´s activists, including Ingrid Visser, her associate Rosina Lisker, and the filmmaker Joe Kennedy. This visit was connected with the court case to be heard on 23th January in Utrecht, The Netherlands, where activists repeatedly attempted to illegitimate the transfer of the orca Morgan to Loro Parque, which was realized in accordance with the rules of the International Convention on the Protection of CITES.

This time, however, the activists have clearly crossed the line! First of all, they were denied entry to Loro Parque on Friday, 19thJanuary, because they refused to sign an official document that regulates the use of image and sound recordings for visitors to the park with professional camera equipment. By signing this document, the visitors agree to the established rule that these images will be taken exclusively for private use, while any other use should be coordinated with the management of the park in advance.

This negative encounter was not the only incident that occurred on Friday, more was to come later in the afternoon. During the time of the last orca presentation, which starts at 16.45 o’clock, the activists flew a drone over the OrcaOcean stadium of the Loro Parque. This does not only violate the applicable Spanish law! Such remote-controlled flying devices cannot guarantee safety and put in direct danger the visitors and the animals of the park! It was discovered that the persons responsible for this action, were in fact, Ingrid Visser and her companions and Loro Parque has filed a formal police report.

Due to these circumstances, Loro Parque has taken the decision that, in the interests of visitors and animals under the care of the park, it will make use of its legitimate right and permanently prohibit the entry to Ingrid Visser (and other activists of the Free Morgan Foundation).

This decision will also benefit the orca Morgan, who is due to give birth at the end of this year and who, in opinions of the reputable experts, is unable to survive in the wild not only because of her lack of experience of living and providing for herself in the nature, but also because she suffers from a severe hearing defect which will not allow her survive in the wild on her own.

The Aquarium ‘Poema del Mar’ in Gran Canaria opens to the public on 8th January

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Having celebrated the formal inauguration on 17th December, the Aquarium ‘Poema del Mar’ opens its doors to the general public in the centre of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria next Monday, 8th January 2018, with the opening hours available from 9:00 until 18:00. Starting next week, this project will allow the visitors of the Canarian Islands to discover the spectacular biodiversity of our Planet.

‘Poema del Mar’ has a firm commitment to innovation, conservation of biodiversity and excellence in the matters of the sustainable tourism. This has already been noted by the Authorities of the Canary Islands, who consider the project to be of “strategic interest for the region”. This will, undoubtedly, reinforce the international relevance of Gran Canaria and the entire archipelago as one of the best tourist destinations worldwide.

‘Poema del Mar’ will focus its efforts on the conservation of the Atlantic marine biodiversity in coordination with Loro Parque Fundación, an organisation with more than 20 years of experience in this field and over 100 conservation projects in 30 countries dedicated to the protection of endangered species, with a total investment to-date of USD17,000,000.

Discovering ‘Poema del Mar’

 During your visit to ‘Poema del Mar’, you will discover three different zones: surface marine ecosystems, deep sea marine ecosystems and fresh-water species. The visitor will start its journey immersing itself in the first of these zones, The Jungle, which recreates diverse landscapes in a real tribute to the five continents. The Reef is the second area of ‘Poema del Mar’, which will invite you to a promenade around a giant cylinder that shows a great variety of multiple, bright colours created by the corals and fish. This fascinating tour will culminate in the Deep Sea, where the largest exhibition curved window in the world will surely not leave you unmoved.

For those interested in purchasing tickets, please find below the list of prices:

  • Non-resident adult: 25 €
  • Non-resident child (up to the age of eleven): 17,50 €
  • Resident adult: 18 €
  • Resident child (up to the age of eleven): 13 €

The entrance is free for children below the age of 4.

The entry tickets for ‘Poema del Mar’ can be purchased via the following locations starting tomorrow, January 6th 2018:

2017: a successful year for Loro Parque

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December is the month to close the annual balance, and Loro Parque closes 2017 with a very positive one: the TripAdvisor award for the best zoo in the world, the luxury inauguration of a new exhibit with the arrival of three Angola Lions and the opening of the aquarium Poema del Mar this past Sunday the 17th, the date of its 45th anniversary.  An overview of this year’s calendar shows that its work and daily efforts for the conservation of nature have paid off.

An important factor in this matter is the number of distinctions and awards the Park has received throughout 2017. In addition to having been named the best zoo on the planet, it has obtained the animal welfare certification for all its animals granted by the prestigious American Humane Association – being the first zoo in Europe to acquire it – as well as the certificate of the independent auditor Global Spirit, which recognizes 100% compliance with the requirements established by the animal welfare standards set by the British Association of Tour Operators and Travel Agents (ABTA), which counts with the participation of world leaders such as Thomas Cook or TUI UK.

Another indicator, reason for continuous joys for the family of Loro Parque, has been the ‘baby-boom’ that has taken place in the last twelve months: chimpanzees, capybaras, otters, sea lions, sharks, parrots or penguins are some of the species that have been raised in the Park. Especially curious was the case of the great-grandson of Geisha, the most famous female king penguin of Planet Penguin, and also very endearing was the arrival of the chimp baby Happy, which filled the entire family with joy on the Happiness Day. The arrival of the Tasmanian yellow-tailed black-cockatoo chicks was quite a milestone, as it was the first time that they were reproduced in Europe.

This explosion of births confirms the state of well-being in which animals are found in their facilities, and strengthens the commitment to their protection and conservation, thus demonstrating the success of their breeding system, framed in a philosophy that has turned Loro Parque into a true embassy for wild animals.

And also in the field of new additions, a highlight was the arrival of three African lions of the subspecies “lion of Angola”, from zoos of France and Lisbon. Its exhibition in Loro Parque, named Lion’s Kingdom, is a unique space that perfectly recreates its natural habitat, with a lake so they can cool off, a rock promontory where to rest in the sun and even several dragon trees, an emblematic tree of the Canary Islands.

To finish off the year, on December 17th, Loro Parque celebrated the opening ceremony of the aquarium Poema del Mar, which reinforces its commitment to the conservation of nature as a continuum without borders. This project appears as a new chance to develop an important environmental labour, now focused on the biodiversity of oceans, seas and rivers of the Planet Earth.

Grand opening of Poema del Mar in Gran Canaria

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The long-awaited inauguration of Poema del Mar, a modern and innovative aquarium launched by the company Loro Parque, took place on Sunday, 17th December in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. Located right next to the Cruise Ship Pier in the Sanapu Dock only 200 meters away from the famous Las Canteras Beach, the aquarium has illuminated the centre of the capital of the island with an impressive multi-coloured shark silhouettes on the façade of the building.

The event featured the speech of Wolfgang Kiessling, President of Loro Parque; Christoph Kiessling, Vice-President of Loro Parque, followed by Luis Ibarra, President of the Port Authority; Augusto Hidalgo, Mayor of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria; Antonio Morales, President of Gran Canaria’s Local Government; Carolina Darias, President of the Canary Islands Parliament, and Fernando Clavijo, President of the Canary Islands Government. All of them agreed on the large scale of the project and outlined the positive impact that Poema del Mar will have for the city, Gran Canaria and the Canary Islands in general.

The opening ceremony included different exciting performances, such as the one by Los Gofiones, a known local band who livened up the mood of the attendees with popular music original of the Canary Islands. A group of actors that features body painting artwork by the makeup artist Nauzet Afonso brought to life the legacy of Nestor de la Torre as the name of the aquarium Poema del Mar is directly inspired by the art of this outstanding Gran Canarian artist. Furthermore, the opening was blessed by both the General Vicar of the Canariensis Diocese, Hipolito Cabrera, and the Bishop of the Nivariense Diocese, Bernardo Alvarez.

Poema del Mar is a modern and ambitious project with a strong commitment to innovation, conservation of biodiversity, and excellence in sustainable tourism development. The aquarium has been called as a project of ‘strategic regional interest’ by the authorities of the Canary Islands, Spain, which would reinforce Gran Canaria and the entire archipelago as one of the top international tourism destinations worldwide.

The new aquarium will continue the same commitment to quality and excellence as demonstrated by Loro Parque. Loro Parque has always maintained a firm commitment to wellbeing of the animals, conservation of the biodiversity, as well as to ensuring the highest quality of its facilities and to demonstrating respect for the environment. This has been confirmed through multiple national and international distinctions, as well as seals of quality and of environmental commitment received throughout Loro Parque’s 45-year history. Among the most recent recognitions both Loro Parque and Siam Park were recognized by TripAdvisor in 2017 as the Best Zoo and Best Water Park in the World, an award that Siam Park has received for the 4th consecutive year.

A visit to the aquarium Poema del Mar will consist in discovering three different areas: surface marine ecosystems, deep marine ecosystems and fresh water species. Visitors will start the tour submerging in ‘The Jungle’ that recreates the landscapes and biodiversity of different parts of the world. The next area is the ‘Reef’, an enormous cylinder of 400.000 litres of water with a wide variety of colours created by fish and coral reefs. The ‘Deep Sea’ is the third area that culminates the tour of the aquarium and will amaze the visitors with its exposition that contains 5.5 million litres of water and the largest curved window in the world: 36 metres long and 7.3 metres high.

Poema del Mar intends to convert into a reference for Atlantic marine conservation, especially in the Macaronesian zone and the African Atlantic coast. The conservation activities of the aquarium Poema del Mar will be coordinated with Loro Parque Fundación, an organization with more than 20 years of experience in the development of research, education and conservation activities all over the world. Since 1994, the Foundation has carried out more than 100 conservation projects in 30 countries worldwide, and has dedicated more than 17,000,000 U.S. dollars to the conservation of the highly endangered animal species.

Loro Parque Statement

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Loro Parque confirms that Morgan (one of the orca females housed in our facilities after being found almost dead and rescued in 2010 in the Wadden Sea) is pregnant. Pregnancies are a very frequent phenomenon in a modern zoological institution which takes care of tenths of thousands of animals from over 500 species. Commonly the gestational status of the animals is not communicated to the public, but in this case we have taken into consideration the exceptional public interest for Morgan.

This diagnostic was reached after a uterus ultrasound exploration due to a periodical medical check. The pregnancy was confirmed only four weeks ago.

The orca keepers and the veterinarian team of Loro Parque have the knowledge and expertise necessary to follow up the gestation, providing Morgan with the highest standards of animal care in the world.

Loro Parque considers the reproduction as a natural right of any animal which cannot be denied under any circumstances. Furthermore, breeding of animal species in zoos is one of the objectives according to the European Directive and the Spanish zoo’s law and is also supported by the criteria of the professional zoological associations, both national and international.

“Ineffective” Pseudoscience about Orcas teeth

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Original article: http://www.huffingtonpost.de/philipp-j-kroia/zahnlose-pseudo-wissenschaft-zu-orca-zaehnen_b_18492062.html

By: Philipp J. Kroiß

It is a well-known topic of the animal rights industry: the teeth of orcas. Again and again, this is brought up and it exploits the ignorance of many trusting animal lovers to repeat already refuted accusations.

Orca teeth in the wildness

The teeth of killer whales are different from human teeth – not only in size and shape. The teeth of orcas are quite easy to  wear down due to their consistency. Orcas, which feed on many sharks in nature, even erode the teeth to the edge of the gums and then often die miserably. But orcas, which are eating other type of fish, show in their natural habitat significant wear down the teeth as you can see in captivity.

Why are the teeth wear out? Orcas have no hands. They also do not touch with their flippers, because they have other tasks than human hands, although they are anatomically in a similar position. Orcas feel their environment with the mouth. Tongue and teeth are necessary for exploring the environment. These were comparatively the soft teeth out. If you go to museums where orca skeletons are shown and the teeth are in their original state, you will find scuffed, missing and / or worn-out teeth. Anyone visiting the “reading room” of the Museum Naturalis in Leiden will see such an orca skeleton. The North Sea Museum Bremerhaven has given to the Sugar Museum in Berlin a carcass-eaten orca tooth. Quite famous is the skeleton of Old Tom, where you even see this very clearly.

Anyone who has the opportunity to look at their teeth during the necropsy of stranded animals will be able to see that it is difficult to find a perfect row of teeth. Particularly impressive are the photos from A. Kitchener. The photos in the National Museum Scotland show jaws from stranded animals. Under the registration number NMS.Z.2015.142.78 you can find a sub-adult male, which has a lack of seven teeth in the left lower jaw and three teeth in the right lower jaw and with very good visible black holes. In the upper jaw missing a total of 9 teeth and some are heavily abraded. A female (NMS.Z.2016.118) had no teeth in the upper jaw at all – quite as if there had never been any, and the rest was clearly rubbed off. These are just two examples of many.

Incidentally, such rows of teeth are not only a problem of orcas in the natural habitat – they are also found in other types of dolphins. As early as 1977 it was scientifically described that tooth diseases can be described as quite normal – for wild bottlenose dolphins and even for those in the Dolphinarium.


Orca’s teeth in captivity

The main difference between the ones living in the wild and the others in captivity is, that to the last ones you can treat the teeth well.

Unlike in nature, infections or other diseases rarely develop in the first place, and if they have then it will be quickly resolved after a relatively short treatment. For the animals this is less stressful than for most people the treatment at the dentist, because for them, the dental care is integrated into a training in which they participate voluntarily.

In the Loro Parque the animals are regularly cleaned – not with a brush, but with a stream of water. The animals seem to like this because they voluntarily come out of the water only to get their teeth cleaned by the trainers. So the rows of teeth of the animals could be in some kind worn out like in the wild orcas, but just healthy. Currently, no animal in the Loro Parque has any diseases in this direction – many wild of the same species would be glad if that would be their own case with. It would be almost surprising to see a flawless row of teeth in all animals.

At this point, I cannot speak about SeaWorld, because there I have neither seen the rows of teeth properly, nor am I aware exactly what measures are taken such as for dental care or how healthy the animals are currently. In Loro Parque, I was able to observe the animals in compliance with all safety standards, as an independent journalist. This snapshot of the matriarch Kohana was taken during a feeding session.Feeding  Orca matriarch Kohana | (c)opyright: Philipp J. Kroiß

Kohana is currently 15 years old and compared to other Orca matriarch, in the wild and in captivity, she has an impeccable set of teeth for her age. Both the veterinarianson site and an independent veterinarian, could confirm me in personal talks that no animal had any problems.

Pseudoscience of animal rights activists

Ingrid Visser, who occasionally visits Loro Parque and is one of the authors of a very dubious study of orca teeth, rightfully has no way to examine the orcas or take other photos than any other visitor. It would be negligent, for example, to let a person close to the animals that says, for example, that the adorable orca matriarch Morgan should rather be dead than live in Loro Parque.

Independent experts and scientists, however, who are not in contact with her; see that could have had a promising scientific career and throw it to the hut just to spread populism via orcas in captivity, or are involved with other activists of this grouping, may and should of course be able to assess the orcas. No credible scientist has yet complained about the dental situation. Thus, the Loro Parque achieved the best rating in the prestigious and independent audit for the Humane certificate.

Naturally, those who use disinformation to entice bona fide donors to their donation pot claim the opposite. Four of the five authors of the paper “Tooth damage in captive orcas (Orcinus orca)” are animal rights activists and none of them are veterinarians or experts in the field of Orca care. The animal rights industry is represented in this study of two dishonourably dismissed former SeaWorld Trainer, one animal rights author and of only a person with an academic qualification in this field, called Carolina Loch (Santos DASilva) – although she is not a veterinarian, and she has been involved with this study completely exposed to the mockery of serious scientists. Why?

Unlike reputable dental studies, these animals were never examined by veterinarians. The animal rights activists just went to the parks and took pictures – as every viewer can do (several meters away). Based on these photos, an evaluation took place. You have to imagine that: you go to the dentist, who takes pictures and then makes a diagnosis. This is not a serious doctor.

So anyone can understand that this pseudo-science is pretty “ineffective” because it cannot make representative statements.  It is because of their actions, the paper on which it was printed, not worth. The activists are currently trying to cover up their advertising for the study neatly to persuade donors to donate their well earned money to very intransparent and frivolous organizations, because in the animal rights industry you earn well – for the top players are three-digit annual salaries in the management floor not uncommon.  Such flamboyant scandals undoubtedly fill the coffers and are ultimately lucrative for populists by ultimately no spending.

What is left over?

Except for a bit of “publicity feed”, this study has no importance. Anyone who cites them as evidence in the professional world will be punished badly. It is not used except in the circles of animal rights, because it is not serious enough then just for than populism. Whether Loch will ever be able to work respectably again, after she gets her name for this ridiculousness, one has to wait. It is extremely embarrassing without a veterinarian, the neatly examined the animals to give from the audience perspective assessments on the health of animals and then want to sell the sale as a science. People who have been minimally concerned with the matter know that too.


The zoo world will keep this study active for a while, because it will certainly be dug up again and again by the fanatical zoo opponents. The Loro Parque has already informed about it. Since the activists keep affixing this theme, it has long been disproved on the zoos.media, YouTube channel, which cited a video by dolphinaria.truth:

We will see how long the animal rights activists will still ride on this already refuted “Möchtgern” argument and also how many articles, videos and blog posts there are.

What is certain, is that the laws of the animal rights industry also do not become truer although it is constantly repeated or tried to prove by ineffective pseudo-science.


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In 2016 Loro Parque sued PETA for its accusations made to SEPRONA (Spanish Environmental Police) for mistreatment of its orcas. PETA not only accused Loro Parque to SEPRONA but also started an international press campaign against the park, although the previous investigations of the Spanish Environmental Police confirmed that there were absolutely no indications of mistreatment and that the orcas were in optimal conditions.

The sentence published yesterday admits and accredits that “the installations of the orcas at Loro Parque fulfill the regulations in force and the general condition of the orcas is the correct one”.  It also states that “is unquestionable that the activity developed at Loro Parque complies strictly to the applicable legal requirements and counts with the obligatory authorizations and licenses” and accepts that it has been verified that “the zoological park has qualified personnel to take care of and medically treat the orcas that live in its installations”.

At no moment, the judicial resolution questions the wellbeing of the orcas in Loro Parque, on the contrary, it makes clear that the orcas are in good conditions, attended by qualified professionals and experts. This implies clearly that the accusations of mistreatment or even torture were not true.

However, the sentence weights between the right of honor and the freedom of speech. The court understands that these affirmations, although demonstrated as false, are protected by the freedom of speech. There is no doubt that in a democratic society this right has to be protected but it is also necessary to protect the legal and legitimate economic activities which are the motor of our society.

Therefore, Loro Parque will appeal this sentence to the High Court of Santa Cruz de Tenerife in order to address that the legitimate use of freedom of speech cannot be the excuse for organizing campaigns of defamation to commit an outrage against organizations like Loro Parque, who has been fighting for conservation of Nature and the wellbeing of animals for 45 years.

Response to the publication in The Journal of Oral Biology “Tooth damage in captive orcas”

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These past couple of days much has been said about the paper published in The Journal of Oral Biology “Tooth damage in captive orcas”, written, among others, by John Jett (a former SeaWorld trainer and now a biologist), Ingrid Visser (an activist for the liberation of orcas and a researcher) and Jeffrey Ventre (a former SeaWorld trainer dismissed for misconduct and now a physiotherapist). At first glance, it could appear as a scientific work developed with the intention of getting to know better the different problems affecting orcas. However, once you take a deeper read, it turns out to be a simple statistic analysis of the pictures that Ingrid Visser and other activists have obtained of the orcas at both SeaWorld and Loro Parque. The most important conclusion of that study is that orcas in human care present dental damage, which needless to say is too obvious to write a whole scientific article about it.

We could wonder ‘How is this article going to improve the knowledge on the species and its conservation?’ The answer is quite simple: in no way. The dental deterioration of 50 orcas kept under human care is absolutely irrelevant for the conservation of the species. It would have been a lot more interesting to research, for instance, how chemical contamination affects wild orcas (like the investigation supported by Loro Parque in collaboration with Aarhus University to evaluate how toxic elements affect orcas immune system), specially since there is increasingly more evidence material that a contamination is a problem for the reproduction of wild orcas. Any other research on the consequences of noise in the sea, the availability of food or the interference of fisheries would have been extremely helpful for the species. But that does not seem to be important enough for Free Morgan Foundation, an organization with different goals: getting rid of zoos that keep orcas in their care, using any excuse they can find to archieve these goals.

If one reads closely the article “Tooth damage in captive orcas”, one will see that it does not demonstrate that orcas suffer any well-being issues because of their dental damage, it just speculates about such a possibility. It speculates about pain and discomfort, but it does not provide evidence, simply because it is not possible to verify any of these presumptions just by taking pictures 40 meters away from the orcas. What is this article useful for, then? Well, it is simply an excuse so that some of their authors can then make speculative statements that are not based on research. Thus, John Jett declares in Voice of the Orcas (specialized webpage against SeaWorld created after Blackfish by some former trainers): “We have found that more than 65% show moderate to severe dental damage on their lower jaws, mostly because they bite the concrete and steel surfaces of the tanks”. This is a huge speculation. If that behaviour was as frequent as he confirms, why have they not documented it photographically? How can they determine just by looking at a simple picture what the real cause of this dental damage is? On his part, Jeffrey Ventre assesses: “Dental damage does not only causes mortality and morbidity in captive orcas, but frequently leads to chronicle therapies with antibiotics which endanger orcas’ immune system”. This conclusion cannot be found in a scientific paper either, mainly because it is just a speculation with no veterinarian base at all.

It is not true that dental damage causes mortality or morbidity, and authors do not provide any scientific evidence of it. How many orcas have died because of dental damage at zoos? With an adequate dental hygiene there are no dental infections, so it is false that there are animals with chronic treatments (Dr. Ventre should know that treatments are never chronic and that this adjective is only used in a reference to diseases, so maybe he should revise his professional knowledge). Furthermore, the affirmation of those treatments affecting negatively their immune system is false. It is worrying that someone like him does not know the therapeutic and side effects of a medicine as ordinary as antibiotics. These kind of assessments, made without evaluating clinically any of the animals, and without revising their clinical history, are simply self-interested speculations. And what about Dr. Ingrid Visser? Just as the previous ones, those cannot be found in the scientific article nor in any of its conclusions. For Dr. Visser: “Those wounds must be extremely painful”

How can she assess something like that without having examined an animal, contradicting the opinion of marine mammals’ expert veterinarians with more than 40 years of experience? Well, simply because her only goal is demonstrating that zoos that maintain orcas in their care mistreat animals and cause them pain, no matter what science says or what the real truth is. All animals go through daily inspections and any inflammation, pain or (rarely) infection is treated by expert veterinarians. That is why, in zoos, these processes do not cause them pain, nor are of any importance for the animals. However, if those animals were to be freed or confined to sea pens where their control and treatment would be more difficult, and would consequently cause pain, uneasiness and infections.

One more time Free Morgan Foundation has used their confusion and misinformation strategy to attack zoos who keep orcas in their care. Unfortunately for them, we will not keep quiet and we will keep exposing their lies and their manipulation attempts.

Loro Parque team says goodbye to the female dolphin Sanibel

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This morning our dolphin Sanibel passed away in the advanced age of about 37 years. Today, our joy of yesterday about the birth of three sea lions became greatly clouded.

Sanibel was given to the ULPGC for necropsy by Professor Antonio Fernández. In the next few days we will know the cause of death. We are losing with Sanibel one of the founding animals and we are sorry that nothing could be further done for her.

Zoophobia: An Alternate Reality

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Original Source: http://zoonation.org/zoophobia-an-alternate-reality/

Unfortunately, today we live in an age of ignorance and the misrepresentation of science by animal rights groups. Additionally, this has been propelled by the media, social media, and now by business owners. The latest announcement regarding unlikely partnerships is not the first time a company has been guided by public opinion. Unfortunately we are living in an alternate reality where public opinion matters more than science, so much that an era of zoophobia has begun.

Zoophobia is defined as an unreasonable and persistent fear of animals that can cause avoidance and panic. I would venture to say that there is now a second definition of zoophobia – An unrealistic and persistent fear of being associated with or a supporter of zoological facilities. Most phobias or mild fears begin with a misunderstanding or ignorance about what is feared. The beginning of this zoophobia era was initiated by a bad partnership, a partnerships forged in fear and not with understanding. This year SeaWorld decided to relinquish its fight against an orca-breeding ban. Not only did they stop fighting, but they also supported a re-written bill introduced to law in California that made breading orcas illegal. SeaWorld went a step further and partnered with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS)–an organization that has been out spoken against animals in human care and proponents of abolishing the use of zoological facilities. While the some of the conservation projects are admirable such as ending shark finning, SeaWorld is set up to do this on their own and did not need the partnership. The partnership came down to one thing, improving public opinion, as a post-Blackfish recovery plan. This announcement set a precedent for the fate of all zoological and aquarium facilities.

Recently TripAdvisor made an announcement that they are ‘committed to improve wildlife welfare standards in tourism with industry-leading education effort and booking policy changes’. TripAdvisor is partnering with groups and will discontinue selling tickets to animal experiences that connect people with animals in human care. This new policy will go in effect in 2017 and include interactive programs such as swimming with dolphins. However they will continue to support interactive programs such as feeding programs and touch tanks under the supervision of zoo or wildlife officials. As you can see their announcement is not very clear at all. Although their new policy is a bit ambiguous, they do have the support of some major players in conservation as well as animal rights activist groups. If you’re surprised by this combination so are we, especially when two opposing forces like the Association for Zoos and Aquariums AZA) and the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). This is a mirror image of the SeaWorld HSUS partnership.

“We believe the end result of our efforts will be enabling travelers to make more thoughtful choices about whether to visit an animal attraction and to write more meaningful reviews about those attractions.”

Stephen Kaufer, CEO and Co-Founder of TripAdvisor

Along with the ban on interactive programs, TripAdvisor is launching an ‘educational’ portal where users will be able to learn about responsible interactions with wild, endangered, and captive animals for wildlife experts. It is centered on educating the public on eco-tourism and conservation. The public will learn about these experiences by clicking on a paw icon to read information from PETA as well as academics exploring all sides of the topic. It is interesting that they mention PETA before academics. This is just another example that indicates public opinion matters more than science. Opinion is not fact; therefore information from PETA should not be included with academic information, as it can be misleading as fact given its context. This is exactly how ignorance and a lack of understanding is perpetually integrated into conversations and negates or confuses the conclusions of scientific literature. This is used to play to the emotions and not to logic. Animal rights groups and mockumentaries such as Blackfish use this tactic to elicit an emotional decision about what a person believes, which allows a person to perceive the misinterpretation of facts or manipulated facts to draw conclusions inline with what animal rights activists want. By doing this they create an alternate reality leading to zoophobia.

This is yet another precedent that will become a major challenge to raising awareness to all of the good aspect of zoological facilities, such as conservation, education, breeding programs, and scientific research. Even PETA acknowledged this precedent. “By refusing to sell tickets to businesses that treat animals as entertainment or playthings, TripAdvisor is making a precedent-setting statement about the use and abuse of animals for entertainment. PETA looks forward to contributing to TripAdvisor’s industry-leading education portal, which will empower people around the world to make better decisions when it comes to animal-friendly travel,” said PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman. It is clear that businesses are scared to go against public opinion even if it goes against science, which has only furthered the agenda of animal rights groups. For instance Steve McIvor of the World Animal Protection was quoted in the Guardian. He said, “We hope it will only be a matter of time before TripAdvisor will also come to realize that it has to end sales to all cruel wildlife attractions, such as SeaWorld where the animals endure a lifetime of abuse and highly stressful training to perform. Until then we will provide the best education we can on TripAdvisor’s website to steer people away from cruel venues like these.”

Many have called this an evolution of the animal and entertainment industries, a reflection of a change in public sentiment and awareness of animal welfare. However at Zoo Nation we feel this is a strongly misguided statement and that we have actually taken a step backwards. Social media forwards a good portion of this agenda and most of these decision based on ‘public sentiment’ has been emotional decisions, not scientifically informed decisions. This is how ignorance wins and this is how public opinion has become more important than science.

At Zoo Nation we support the scientific management of animals in human care. Research has come a long way and we agree that not all zoos are equal. However, the best shot of preserving species when populations are becoming decimated is through the use of zoological and conservation facilities. These facilities are on the forefront of cutting edge research, conservation methods, breeding programs, and education. Part of the problem that we are facing with an eminent sixth extinction is that people have become so disconnected with the natural world; they are under the illusion that they don’t need it. If your not connected then how can you care or be aware. Because of this people rationalize decisions on what needs to happen based on emotion and not based on knowledge. We have information at our fingertips and yet people still make decisions based on opinions and emotion. This is exactly why these new zoophobia trends continue to happen and are gaining speed. The best way to prevent the spread of zoophobia is by education and having the right information. That is why at zoo Nation we are committed to support the zoological and aquarium community by raising awareness, showing the impact they have on conservation and research, and educating the next generation in the hopes of preventing the next major extinction event driven by humans.