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Marineland Under Investigation Amid 17 Beluga Deaths

Two more beluga whales have died at Niagara Falls tourist attraction Marineland this month, raising the total number of whale deaths there to 17 since just 2019.

According to the Canadian Press, the park has been under investigation by Ontario's Animal Welfare Services since 2020.

Officials didn't reveal the exact cause of death of the latest two whales, but Marineland has since said the belugas "both died from torsion after valiant medical efforts to assist them," in a statement, referring to the twisting of bodily organs.

The latest news was met with outrage by critics, who are now calling for the government to shut the park down once and for all.

While the company maintains that the whales at its parks are well taken care of by experts, the deaths shed light on the ongoing and unnecessarily cruel act of holding large marine mammals in captivity for the entertainment of human visitors.

Marineland's park in Niagara Falls isn't even the only facility where its beluga whales are dying. According to the Canadian Press, three belugas have died at the Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut, which bought the animals from Marineland in 2021.

The deaths have triggered an investigation by the US government as well.

According to a January report by the International Marine Mammal Project, there are at least 54 orcas in captivity in marine parks worldwide. The US accounts for 18 of them, spread out over three SeaWorld parks.

In comparison, there are more than an estimated 300 beluga whales currently being kept in captivity globally.

According to the Canadian Press, there were 37 beluga whales at Marineland alone as of last summer.

The mammals' habitats are being degraded by climate change, forcing tens of thousands of belugas to change their migration patterns and feeding grounds. Despite those considerable threats, they're easily stressed by being confined. They also often suffer from boredom and are more susceptible to health issues.

Ontario's Animal Welfare Services have already found that belugas have been in distress due to poor water quality, per the report.

In short, it's astonishing Marineland's Canadian attraction is still in operation, and it's still unclear what will come of the ongoing investigation.

Animal protection advocates are now calling for the park to be shut down, accusing the government of turning a blind eye to the deaths.

"Sixteen beluga whales, and one orca have died at Marineland since 2019," said Melissa Matlow, campaign director of the Canadian nonprofit World Animal Protection, in a statement. "Marineland has lost the trust of the public and has no business caring for animals."

"Enough is enough — Marineland is the prime example of Ontario's broken system of regulations of animal attractions," she added. "This is a law and order issue, and the provincial government needs to address this issue immediately for the safety and security of the animals that remain at the facility."

"Marineland continues to try to hide the severity of the situation their animals are enduring, but dead whales are difficult to hide," former Marineland trainer turned critic Phil Demers told the Canadian Press. "When will there be accountability? Where is the government?"

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