Activists in China are primed for protest.
This week, China Dialogue reported that China's first performance of killer whales will be targeted by activists calling for the shows to be banned, citing animal cruelty.
Chime-Long Ocean Kingdom, a marine park in the coastal city of Zhuhai in Guandong province, is planning to entice more visitors by having the first performing orca show in China.
The China Dialogue article states:
Zhou Haixiang, director of Shenyang Ligong University’s Ecology and Environment Research Office, said the marine park has both plenty of money and local government backing, meaning that other performances are likely.
"As soon as there’s one successful killer whale show, other marine parks in China will follow suit,” said Zhou, who is also a member of the China national committee of UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere programme.
David Neale, Animal Welfare Director at Animals Asia, told chinadialogue that killer whales are the most popular of all performing marine animals and audiences will flock to see them.
Neale told Ocean Advocate News that there are currently four whales at Chime-Long Ocean Kingdom. He suspects that more parks will bring in killer whales if/when they see success at Zhuhai.
Where will those whales come from?
Neale states that Animals Asia has recently seen SeaWorld marketing themselves extensively in China, mainly to attract more Chinese visitors to Florida to visit their park.
This marketing includes a Weibo account for SeaWorld USA. Weibo is a Chinese social media website, similar to Twitter in the US.
A screen shot of SeaWorld's Weibo site in China
One of the Animals Asia team in China has said that a video on the weibo states that 'Seaworld is the mother of the ocean park all over the world, and most important part is their unique Killer Whale'. He says the reason they train the Killer Whale is 'because they want to let the animal and human perform to deliver a harmonious world for human and marine animals'.
This language works very well for a Chinese audience, explained Neale.
SeaWorld also has a China Marketing Representative based in Shanghai. They host a promotional event in China every year combined with the USA tourism promotion events.
Neale tells Ocean Advocate News that it appears SeaWorld is doing all they can to attract more Chinese visitors to Florida and to interest the public in killer whales. He is not sure whether or not SeaWorld plans to invest in China, but if they develop their brand name in this way then it would be a small leap for them since the interest in performances and shows in China with cetaceans is huge right now.
SeaWorld has fallen out of public favor in the US in the past year with low attendance and falling stock prices. Former CEO Jim Atchison recently stepped down with a new position as consultant with respect to international expansion.
Animal Welfare Institute's Naomi Rose told Ocean Advocate News:
AWI is working closely with groups in China. We now have a coalition – China Cetacean Alliance – which includes WDC and the Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society.
SeaWorld was contacted for comment but did not respond.
With China Cetacean Alliance and activists ready to act, SeaWorld's plan might be a failure before it is even launched. Sadly, it will be the animals who suffer the most.