Hong Kong drops plan to import rare whales

A A A

A Hong Kong theme park has dropped a contentious plan to buy and import rare wild-caught beluga whales, in a decision lauded Friday by conservationists who had protested against the bid.

Activists opposed Ocean Park's plan to import the whales, classified as "near threatened", from Russia, saying they are often injured or killed during capture and mortality rates are high among those in captivity.

The park had wanted to use the belugas, usually found around the Arctic circle, to raise public awareness of climate change through its new Polar Adventure attraction to open next year.

"After due consideration, we have decided not to pursue an acquisition from the wild even though the removal of some beluga whales has been shown to be sustainable," Allan Zeman, Ocean Park's chairman, said in a statement.

The popular 34-year-old theme park and aquarium is owned by the Hong Kong government and has set out ambitious plans to boost visitors. The park recorded five million tourists last year.

The beluga, or white whale, is on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) "red list" of "near threatened" species, while the US and Canada have effectively banned the whales' capture from their waters.

"The park did the right thing. We certainly welcome the decision," Samuel Hung, chairman of the Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society, told AFP.

"It's not right to confine a large intelligent mammal inside a tank, this is harming their chance of survival and send a wrong message to the public - that whenever we need them for entertainment purpose, we can go out to catch them."

The park has previously come under the spotlight over its conservation and protection of rare animals.

Last year, Washington-based Animal Welfare Institute has said Ocean Park was trying to capture some 30 dolphins in the Soloman Islands, possibly in breach of animal conservation rules - a claim which was later rejected by the park.

Any dolphin imports from the cluster of islands near Papua New Guinea would breach the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

In 2009, three rare sturgeon - which were among a group of 10 sturgeon donated to the theme park to mark China's hosting of the Olympics in 2008 - died in the park.

The endangered fish died because of different reasons including head injury, blood clotting, infection while one was killed by a bite from barracuda in the aquarium.

Outside the park, conservation groups such as the WWF have consistently appealed to restaurants in Hong Kong - the largest importer of shark fin globally in 2007 - to stop using the fins in the popular soup delicacy.

Scientists blame the practice of shark-finning for a worldwide collapse in shark populations.

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Sport
Esteban Cambiasso makes it 3-3
premier league
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
people'I hated him during those times'
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
Dame Vivienne Westwood has been raging pretty much all of her life
peopleFirst memoir extracts show she 'felt pressured' into going out with the Sex Pistols manager
Arts and Entertainment
Lauryn Hill performing at the O2 Brixton Academy last night
musicSinger was more than 90 minutes late
Sport
Lewis Hamilton in action during the Singapore Grand Prix
Formula OneNico Rosberg retires after 14 laps
News
i100
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: 'Time Heist' sees a darker side to Peter Capaldi's Doctor
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam