The Ugly Side of Wildlife Tourism

https://thewire.in/the-arts/the-ugly-side-of-wildlife-tourism

Kirsten Luce’s photographs focus on the problems with ‘selfie tourism’.

With the growing popularity of Instagram and the “selfie” has come the search for the ultimate photo.

Now a growing industry offering access to animals in wildlife sanctuaries is emerging as the latest trend on social media.

“Without a doubt, the demand for this type of photo, to sit down next to a wild animal and have your photo taken, has grown exponentially because of social media,” says Kirsten Luce, an American photographer whose work previously concentrated on Latin American migrants in the state of Texas.

Thailand and Russia

While working on a project in Brazil, Peru and Colombia on the rise of selfie tourism, Luce realised just how big a problem it was.

She felt more research was needed and decided, along with her reporter, to focus on Thailand and Russia.

Chinese tourists at a crocodile centre in Thailand, taken by Kirsen Luce. Photo: RFI/Anne-Marie Bissada

“We were looking at where native species were exploited for the entertainment of tourists,” Luce explains on the sidelines of her exhibition at the Visa pour l’image photojournalism festival in Perpignan, France.

“In Thailand, everybody goes looking for an experience with the Asian elephants. They also have a lot of tiger experiences, so that was an obvious choice.

“Since we had already looked at a lot of tropical places, we wanted something tonally and texturally different. In Russia we found that travelling marine mammals are exploited at a large number as are bears and even polar bears.”

Image of bears performing for the ice circus in Russia from Kirsten Luce’s exposition. Photo: RFI/Anne-Marie Bissada

It’s a topic that hits hard through its raw imagery.

Many people at the expo took the time to talk to Luce about what she saw and how they can help.

“With a project like wildlife tourism, I think because people have never really seen the topic tackled, they are universally responding by condemning it,” she says.

“I’ve never produced a body of work that has gotten such an emotional response from virtually everybody. Everybody wants to do something to stop it and I’ve even had people say to me, how are you able to sleep at night, it must be the hardest thing to witness?”

Images and access

Photo from Kirsten Luce’s photo exposition. Photo: RFI/Anne-Marie Bissada

But prior to visiting the sanctuaries, Luce and her reporter met former trainers, veterinarians and animal rights activists. They would explain how the animals were often mistreated or prepared before an audience to look healthy, especially if tourists were visiting an “ethical” venue such as those offering bathing with elephants.

“The animal rights activists and trainers that had turned away from the field would give us tips and clues as to what to look out for in behaviour, and also whether or not teeth or claws had been removed,” explains the photographer.

Image of a chained tiger seated on a platform in Kirsten Luce’s exposition. Photo: RFI/Anne-Marie Bissada

Impact

The beauty of photography is in capturing a moment in time – and how that moment can make an instantaneous connection with viewers.

In an elephant sanctuary in Thailand, one such photo brought about change.

“It was clear he needed vet care,” says Luce about the young elephant that was kept away from the public because he had a broken leg. “They claimed they were treating him.

Also read: The Story of How the Orphaned Tigress of Bandhavgarh Was Rehabilitated

“We had a fixer go back a couple of times to check on him – he would be in the exact same position. We knew that the elephant was not getting the care he needed.

“That photo got a lot of movement. There was a lot of pressure, and he was finally purchased and moved to a sanctuary,” Luce says, adding that it was a rare occurrence of a happy ending.

But the owner of the wildlife centre has many more elephants there, and the wider industry continues to thrive, catering for wildlife consumers.

Wildlife ‘likes’

In Russia, a burgeoning industry has kept photographer Olga Barantseva busy, fulfilling people’s desire to pose with a big bear.

Barantseva has nearly a hundred thousand followers on Instagram.

Stepan, the bear used in Barantseva’s photos, was a former circus bear, likely abused into submission, says Luce, which would explain his apparent docile nature that allows him to pose with humans.

Also read: What Happened to the Women in Photography?

Another phenomenon Luce experienced in Russia was the travelling dolphin shows.

“These marine mammals are living and performing in inflatable tents, almost like a circus would come to town for six weeks,” she says. “These belugas and dolphins would be living in tanks for six months.”

The travelling shows do not provide proper water filtering or medical attention, which almost certainly leads to premature death, and to keep up numbers, fresh stock is replaced illegally through poaching in the Black sea, according to Luce.

CITES agreement to ban sending wild elephants to zoos a victory for legacy of Swaziland

 

The end of the elephant-to-zoo trade marked by today’s Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species decision in Geneva is a victory for Friends of Animals efforts to make sure that no other pachyderms would suffer the cruelty of being ripped from the wild for a life in captivity and that the 18 elephants destined for U.S. zoos in 2016 would be the last to ever have to endure this.

The story of the Swaziland elephants that were sent to three U.S. zoos despite Friends of Animals efforts to keep them in the wild was spotlighted in a July New York Times Magazine cover story “Zoos Called it a ‘Rescue.’ But are the Elephants Really Safe?” by Charles Siebert.

The three zoos, Dallas Zoo, Sedgwick County Zoo in Kansas and the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Nebraska, had obtained permits from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to import the elephants in 2016 from a national park in Swaziland overseen by Big Game Parks.

FoA filed a lawsuit claiming that the FWS had a mandatory duty under the National Environmental Policy Act to fully evaluate and disclose whether the elephants, as a result of captivity, would suffer social, psychological, behavioral and physical impacts for the rest of their lives. But ahead of the scheduled March 17, 2016 hearing and without informing the court, a plane was secretly sent from Kansas City on March 5 to transport the elephants to the U.S.

“No other elephants should be drugged and crated, hauled off to a foreign place to spend the next 50 years feeling like captives,” said FoA Wildlife Law Program Director Michael Harris. “The Swaziland elephants will suffer in captivity, there is no doubt of that, but to them we must credit the decision today to end this practice.”

While the U.S. delegation to CITES opposed the agreement, FoA President Priscilla Feral said it is a vital step at a time when elephant populations in Africa are plummeting.

“In the last three years, we kept the story of the Swaziland elephants alive and delivered a PR nightmare for the zoos involved,’’ she said. “It’s gratifying to learn that despite the disappointing performance of the U.S. delegation, CITES passed a trade rule banning the exportation of African elephants to all zoos. Being able to deliver on our goal that they would be the last elephants to be robbed of their freedom and families is rewarding, especially in these difficult political times.”

CITES agreement to ban sending wild elephants to zoos a victory for legacy of Swaziland 18

US must stand against capturing baby African elephants for zoos and circuses

BY JOHANNA HAMBURGER, OPINION CONTRIBUTOR — 08/26/19 07:00 AM EDT THE VIEWS EXPRESSED BY CONTRIBUTORS ARE THEIR OWN AND NOT THE VIEW OF THE HILL

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US must stand against capturing baby African elephants for zoos and circuses © Getty Images Baby African elephants won a historic reprieve at the world’s largest wildlife trade conference last week when delegates voted in committee to end the barbaric practice of capturing live elephants from the wild and shipping them off to zoos, wildlife parks and circuses, where they spend the rest of their lives in captivity.

At the 18th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
(CITES) in Geneva, 46-member countries voted to restrict trade in live elephants from Zimbabwe and Botswana to conservation programs or to secure areas in the elephants’ natural range — except in cases of temporary, emergency transfers. This would shut down the pipeline for elephants to be sold into captivity to foreign countries.

However, this debate is not over. At a CITES plenary meeting scheduled for Tuesday, the issue may be reopened for discussion, triggering a second vote. Shamefully, the United States voted against the ban the first time and will likely do so again if the parties call for a second vote.

Similarly, the European Union spoke against the ban and may seek to overturn it. The 28-nation bloc, which has significant voting power, was prevented from casting votes earlier because not all members were credentialed at the time. Since then, delegates have faced intense lobbying pressure from China, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and zoo associations trying to flip the vote.

Elephants are social and emotional creatures that form strong family bonds and suffer tremendously in captivity, both physically and psychologically. Elephants often face horrific abuse during the capture process. Footage of wild-caught baby elephants, newly snatched from their mothers, shows them being beaten and kicked as they await export from Zimbabwe. From a helicopter, captors shoot tranquilizer darts at the young elephants, and then maneuver the chopper to drive away the rest of the herd. Some elephants die while waiting to be shipped, in transit or upon arrival at their destination.

Elephants who do survive the long journey have been observed living in dark, barren cells in holding facilities and zoos — in contrast to roaming the vast African wilderness with family groups and larger clans.

Moreover, the export of live wild elephants serves no credible conservation purpose and has been condemned by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the 31 African countries that belong to the African Elephant Coalition, and by many prominent elephant biologists.

Yet, since 2012, Zimbabwe has captured and exported more than 100 baby elephants to Chinese zoos and entertainment venues. Very young elephants are pursued due to their small size, which makes them easier to transport. Recently, we learned that Zimbabwe has begun targeting infants as young as eight months old. Such captures have far-reaching consequences, damaging individuals, families, larger social groups, and ecological health.

Some countries, zoos and zoo associations mistakenly believe that this proposal would prevent zoos from sending their legally acquired elephants to other zoos, circuses or sanctuaries in other countries.
This is simply not true. The proposal would not apply retroactively, which means that if an elephant was imported legally in the past, that animal could be exported legally in the future.

By voting against this proposal, the United States is disregarding the growing public opposition to this cruel practice, which harms elephant welfare and fails to promote elephant conservation.

We urge U.S. delegates not to seek to overturn the decision. If the proposed ban is reopened for a vote this week, the United States should throw its weight behind this proposal or — at the very least — abstain from voting.

A “yes” vote would reflect the position held by a majority of U.S.
citizens, African elephant range states and leading elephant experts.
Without U.S. leadership on this issue, elephant calves from Zimbabwe and Botswana may continue to be stolen from the wild and conscripted into a lifetime of captivity

Johanna Hamburger is a wildlife attorney for the Washington, D.C.-based Animal Welfare Institute who is attending CITES this week.

https://thehill.com/opinion/energy-environment/458615-us-must-stand-against-capturing-baby-african-elephants-for-zoos

Protesters Demand Freedom for Bronx Zoo Elephant, Happy

 

AUGUST 12, 2019 BY As crowds entered the Bronx Zoo on Saturday, August 10th, dozens of activists with the Nonhuman Rights Project staged a protest at the entrance to demand that the Wildlife Conservation Society, which runs the zoo, release an elephant named Happy to a sanctuary after holding her captive in a small enclosure since 1977.

Happy is a 48 year old wild-born Asian elephant who was captured in Thailand and brought to the United States in the 1970s.  She has been held captive in the Bronx Zoo since 1977 and has lived alone in a barren one acre enclosure for the past 13 years. During the winter month, she is intensively confined to a small cement cell.

During the winter months, Happy (not pictured here) is held in this barren enclosure in the Bronx Zoo

“Elephants are social animals who need the companionship of other elephants,” said Kevin Schneider, the Executive Director of the Nonhuman Rights Project, “It’s no wonder that we see her swaying and engaging in other unnatural behaviors that indicate distress and suffering.”

Activists with the Nonhuman Rights Project demand that the Wildlife Conservation Society release Happy, an elephant held captive at the zoo since 1977, to a sanctuary

Both of the elephant sanctuaries in the United States, the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee and the Performing Animal Welfare Society in California, have agreed to take Happy at no cost to the Bronx Zoo, but the WCS has refused to let her go.  “The Wildlife Conservation Society acknowledged in 2006 that keeping Happy alone would be inhumane, so we don’t understand why they won’t release her from captivity,” said Schneider. “They either don’t want to acknowledge that Happy’s solitary confinement for the past 13 years has been cruel , or they don’t want to cave into pressure from animal rights advocates.”

During the warm months, Happy is held captive and alone in a one acre enclosure.

In 2018, the Nonhuman Rights Project filed a petition for a common law writ of habeas corpus in New York Supreme Court demanding recognition of Happy’s legal personhood and her fundamental right to bodily liberty. Happy is first elephant in the world to have a habeas corpus hearing to determine the lawfulness of her imprisonment.

As litigation proceeds, public support for the Happy’s freedom has grown. In June, two elected officials made public statements encouraging the WCS to free Happy. Corey Johnson, the Speaker of the New York City Council, wrote, “Happy and all elephants need more space and resources than the zoo can provide, plain and simple.  I urge the Bronx Zoo, which first planned to close the elephant exhibit back in 2006, to finally transfer Happy to one of two recommended sanctuaries so that she can enjoy the company of other elephants and the benefits afforded to a facility specifically designed to meet her needs.”  In a tweet, U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has voiced her opposition to solitary confinement for prison inmates, said that “The team and I are looking into what we can do” to free Happy.

In 2015, the animal advocacy group In Defense of Animals ranked the Bronx Zoo the fifth worst zoo in the United States for elephants. “The Bronx Zoo does not have the space, the resources, or the weather conditions that elephants need to live a reasonably healthy life. Shame on the Bronx Zoo for sentencing “Happy” to what is likely the most unhappy of sentences for an elephant: a life of self­ aware solitary confinement.”

Change.org petition demanding an end to Happy’s solitary confinement has garnered over one million signatures.

Bear attacks worker during wildlife tour at Pennsylvania resort

The resort said that it has “ensured the enclosure is completely secure” and is arranging counseling for guests and staff who witnessed the attack.

Calls for Canadian zoo to be shut down after deer die in stampede

Marineland in Ontario partly closes after a walrus and two deer die in recent weeks

Protesters in front of Marineland theme park.
 Protesters in front of Marineland theme park. Photograph: Tara Walton/Toronto Star via Getty

A controversial theme park in Canada is facing renewed criticism following the deaths of three animals in recent weeks, triggering fresh calls from activists for the attraction to be shut down.

Officials at Marineland, which sits on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls in Ontario, said two deer were killed in a stampede allegedly caused by a father and son taunting the animals. The incident, which occurred last weekend when the attraction opened for the season, has prompted staff to temporarily close the deer park area.

Days after the stampede, the park also announced the results of a postmortem on one of its walruses which died in April, citing a heart attack as the cause of death for the 18-year-old animal named Apollo. Apollo is the fourth walrus to die in the park over the last two years, leaving it with only one remaining animal – a female called Smooshi.

Speaking of the deer deaths, Marineland said: “We are all upset by this terrible act against innocent animals. In order to protect our animals, we are closing the deer park to make modifications to prevent this type of incident from ever happening again.” It added that this was the first time such an incident had occurred.

Deer sit around the perimeter of Marineland’s deer park.
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 Deer sit around the perimeter of Marineland’s deer park. Photograph: Tara Walton/Toronto Star via Getty Images

But Phil Demers, a former animal trainer at the park who has become Marineland’s most vocal critic, rejected the park’s explanation, claiming that a move to reopen the deer park to visitors after years of closure could cause panic among the animals.

“There’s been countless incidences of patrons stressing out the animals. [Marineland] took a gamble. They opened it for the first time in years,” he said.

Marineland has increasingly become a target for activists, who argue the park has a moral responsibility to release the animals it keeps in captivity. The park dismissed protests outside its gates over the opening weekend as a “small group of annual demonstrators [who] continue to seek to damage Marineland at all costs”.

The park was the focus of a 2012 investigation by the Toronto Star, which interviewed a number of employees alleging incidences of animal neglect. The park is contesting the claims.

“Marineland is in what can only be described as a significantly worse condition than when I spoke out in 2012. There has been exactly no investment in improvement to the animal life support systems whatsoever,” said Demers.

Marineland has vigorously denied the claims and has been in a legal battle with Demers over the last seven years, alleging he attempted to steal a walrus – an allegation he calls “absurd”.

Despite pressure from critics, the park continues to house an estimated 51 beluga whales. It also has five bottle-nosed dolphins and a single orca named Kiska.

A male beluga whale at Marineland.
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 A male beluga whale at Marineland. Photograph: Denis Cahill/AP

Proposed legislation in the Canadian parliament – dubbed the “Free Willy bill”– is likely to receive royal assent in the coming weeks and would ban the captivity of cetaceans, including orcas, dolphins and beluga whales across the country. The province of Ontario previously passed similar legislation, which banned the acquisition of large marine mammals, but allowed Marineland to keep its whales.

Ever since the park’s owner, John Holer, died last year, the company – Holer Family Amusements – has been at a “crossroads”, the Niagara Falls mayor, Jim Diodati, told the Toronto Star, as it explores a possible expansion of the park, or sale of its land to developers.

Marineland confirms walrus death, two deer killed in opening day stampede

Marineland has confirmed the death of walrus Apollo and said the 18-year-old animal had a heart attack.

Cillian O’BrienCTVNews.ca writer

@cillian_obrien

Published Wednesday, May 22, 2019 12:33PM EDT 

Controversial Canadian waterpark Marineland has announced the death of one of its walruses, days after “demonstrators” were blamed for causing a stampede that led to the deaths of two deer.

The tourist attraction in Niagara Falls, Ont. announced Apollo’s death on Tuesday, confirming the 18-year-old animal died of a heart attack in late April.

“Even with the immediate intervention of multiple medical marine mammal experts, we are sad to report that Apollo passed away,” a Marineworld release said.

“While the loss of Apollo is truly devastating for all of us who knew him, we are comforted in knowing he passed very quickly and without obvious pain.”

The park is now keeping a close eye on its last remaining walrus, Smooshi, which has been subject to “extensive additional checkups to confirm the status of her health.”

“Our team is providing her with additional enrichment and care while plans for her future at the park are finalized,” the park said.

“Smooshi continues to show her love and adoration for her favourite marine mammal trainers and appeared to be in good spirits when taking to the stage at Marineland’s educational presentation on Saturday’s opening day.”

Apollo is the fourth walrus to die at Marineland in two years.

Zeus died of natural causes on Boxing Day last year. Another walrus, Buttercup, died in the winter of 2017/18.

Female walrus Sonja died suddenly in May 2017 from a rare abdominal aneurysm, the park said.

Two deer killed in stampede

Meanwhile, Marineland said it had its busiest opening day in a decade, despite protests from animal rights groups.

The park claims two men deliberately started a deer stampede Saturday, resulting in the deaths of two of the animals.

“These individuals laughed in the face of staff as they tried to get them to stop,” a Marineland statement said.

“They refused all instruction by staff and resisted efforts to remove them from the Deer Park. We are all upset by this terrible act against innocent animals.

“In order to protect our animals, we are closing the Deer Park to make modifications to prevent this type of incident from ever happening again.”

Ontario SPCA and Humane Society has called for an overhaul to provincial animal welfare legislation, which it says is failing animals kept in captivity for commercial gain.

“The Ontario SPCA and Humane Society has formed a task force dedicated to developing ‎new provincial animal welfare legislation that reflects the need for both greater protection and social justice for animals,” the charity said in a statement.

“The task force is reviewing the need for animals to be recognized under law as sentient beings to acknowledge their ability to feel, to have subjective experiences and to be treated accordingly, rather than as property.”

Zebras, lions, kangaroos among exotic animals seized at Quebec zoo

Owner of St-Édouard Zoo facing charges of neglect and cruelty to animals

Sophie Gaillard, animal advocacy director with the Montreal SPCA, speaks to reporters after the arrest of the owner of the Zoo St-Édouard, in central Quebec, on Tuesday. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)
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A zoo owner in central Quebec is facing criminal charges after roughly 100 animals were seized at a facility in Saint-Édouard-de-Maskinongé.

Normand Trahan was arrested Tuesday morning by SPCA investigators, with the assistance of provincial police, on charges of animal neglect and cruelty.

If found guilty, Trahan could face up to five years in prison and a lifetime ban on owning an animal.

“To our knowledge, this is the first time in Canada that a zoo owner is facing criminal animal cruelty charges,” said Sophie Gaillard, animal advocacy director with the Montreal SPCA.

It is also the first time in Quebec that animal cruelty charges have been laid by way of indictment under the federal Criminal Code, Gaillard said, which opens the door to harsher penalties than under provincial laws.

Several primates are among the animals that will be transferred to animal sanctuaries across North America. (Submitted by Humane Society International/Canada)

“We’re really pleased that this file is being taken seriously by the prosecutors involved,” she said at a news conference at the zoo on Tuesday.

The animals found at the St-Édouard Zoo, about 120 kilometres north of Montreal, include lions, tigers, zebras, camels, kangaroos and bears.

Flags raised in 2018

The SPCA said it started investigating after a visitor called them in 2018.

“We received a complaint from the public and conducted a thorough investigation that led us to discover other pieces of evidence,” said Gaillard.

Two alpacas were seized in October 2018, following an initial inspection the previous August. Four animal carcasses, including those of two tigers, were also found, as well as the bodies of two birds.

Before 2015, the zoo only featured nordic animals like wolves. (Submitted by HSI/Canada)

Humane Society International (HSI), a non-profit organization, is tasked with caring for the remaining animals and finding them new homes.

SPCA and HSI employees have spent the day going around the zoo to take inventory of the living conditions.

“Some animals didn’t have access to water and proper food,” said Ewa Demianowicz, senior campaign manager with HSI/Canada.

“Some animals needed veterinary care, so these are not conditions that we usually see in zoos,” said Demianowicz.

So far, none of the animals were found to be in “imminent danger,” but it will take weeks to transfer them to other sanctuaries in the HSI network, in Canada and in the United States.

Quebec zoo owner Normand Trahan, pictured in 2017, could face up to five years in prison on charges of animal cruelty and neglect. (Josée Ducharme/Radio-Canada)

“This is without a doubt the most complex animal rescue we’ve undertaken in Canada,” said Rebecca Aldworth, executive director of HSI/Canada.

The costs of the operation are partially being covered by the Eric S. Margolis Family Foundation, which supports wildlife advocacy organizations.

Multiple infractions

The St-Édouard Zoo had been fined in the past for breaching Quebec’s wildlife protection laws.

The Ministry of Wildlife, which is responsible for issuing permits to zoos, could not confirm at this time whether Trahan had the proper permits to run an exotic zoo.

Quebec’s business registry lists the zoo as a breeding facility for livestock and poultry.

HSI/Canada said so far, the animals found at the zoo were not in “imminent danger.” (Submitted by HSI/Canada)

According to Radio-Canada, it had been for sale for several years because Trahan wanted to retire.

The 69-year-old appeared at the Trois-Rivières courthouse Tuesday afternoon and was released on a promise to appear June 21.

His lawyer, Michel Lebrun, said Trahan has always collaborated with officials and was planning to open the zoo this week.

“As far as I know, he has had the proper permits with the Ministry of Wildlife and the MAPAQ [Quebec’s food and agriculture inspection agency] for the past 30 years,” said Lebrun.

Trahan took over the property in 1989 when it was known as the Centre d’Observation de la Faune.

According to the zoo’s website, visitors can see up to 100 species of exotic animals, including lions, tigers, baboons and leopards.

A flamingo in an Illinois zoo had to be put down after a child threw a rock at it

This file photo shows a flamingo at a zoo in Duisburg, western Germany.

(CNN)A Miller Park Zoo flamingo was euthanized Monday after an elementary school student threw a rock inside the animal’s exhibit.

A representative from the Bloomington, Illinois zoo told CNN affiliate WMBD the rock broke the flamingo’s leg and caused injuries that led to it being put down.
The zoo said it’s working with the student’s family to make sure this is a learning experience, WMBD reported.
The greater flamingo exhibit at the zoo opened in June 2016, according to the city of Bloomington.
According to the University of Michigan, greater flamingos are found in the Middle East in countries like Iran, Turkey and Afghanistan, as well as in areas across west Africa, South America and throughout Europe. They’re often hunted across the Middle East and Africa and their eggs are often captured for profit.
They can live up to an average of 30 years, according to the university with those in captivity sometimes reaching 60 years old.
The zoo has both indoor and outdoor exhibits of animals including reindeer, the Sumatran tiger, river otters, red pandas, lemurs, bald eagles, gibbons and red wolves, according to its website.

Marineland, Vancouver Aquarium shipping beluga whales out of the country

Two major Canadian tourist attractions are sending beluga whales outside the country as a new federal law looms that would ban exports on marine mammals, The Canadian Press has learned.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada said it has approved permits for Marineland to move two belugas from the Niagara Falls, Ont., facility to Oceanografic in Valencia, Spain. The Vancouver Aquarium says it owns the two marine mammals that are being cared for by Marineland, and operates the Spanish park where they’re being transferred.

“These two aquarium-born belugas will receive exceptional care at Oceanografic, where they will join a small social grouping of whales already in care there,” Vancouver Aquarium said in a statement, adding that the deal would not cost the Spanish facility any money.

Marineland has also applied to move five more belugas to the United States, but neither Fisheries nor Marineland would divulge where in the U.S. they’re headed if the permits are approved.

“Our Marine Mammal Welfare Committee, which includes independent, accredited experts, recently recommended that Marineland Canada re-home some of our beluga whales to accommodate belugas we expect to be born in 2019 and 2020,” Marineland said in a statement.

“Relocations to the United States are being undertaken to ensure that the best care possible is provided for our beluga whales.”

Neither facility would identify which belugas were being moved, nor how long the two facilities had this arrangement.

The moves come as a new bill banning whale and dolphin captivity is nearing law — its third reading in the House of Commons is set for debate next week.

“Our government agrees that the capture of cetaceans for the sole purpose of being kept for public display should be ended,” said Jocelyn Lubczuk, a spokeswoman for Fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson.

The bill bans imports and exports of the mammals with exceptions only for scientific research or “if it is in the best interest” of the animal, with discretion left up to the minister, thereby clamping down on the marine mammal trade.

It will also change the Criminal Code, creating new animal cruelty offences related to the captivity of cetaceans. It also bans breeding.

The bill includes a grandfather clause for those animals already in facilities in Canada and permits legitimate research, as well as the rescue of animals in distress.

Both Marineland and Vancouver Aquarium said the anti-captivity bill had nothing to do with their decisions to move the whales.

“The decision to move them was made in their best interest, not because of politics,” the Vancouver Aquarium said.

The Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation passed a bylaw amendment in 2017 banning cetaceans being brought to or kept in city parks after two beluga whales held at the aquarium died. The aquarium, which is located in Stanley Park, announced last year that it would phase out whale and dolphin display.

There are currently no whales at the Vancouver Aquarium.

“We do not believe that the passage of (the bill) will impact Marineland Canada’s ability to do what is right for our whales in the years to come,” Marineland said.

Marineland, which has more than 50 belugas, has taken issue with the breeding ban. The facility said in a letter to the fisheries minister that the park would be in contravention of the Criminal Code when the bill comes into force because some belugas are pregnant and set to give birth this summer after the bill becomes law.

“There is no easy or thoroughly effective birth control medication for beluga whales,” Marineland wrote in March. “In order to control breeding by Bill S-203, existing social family groups must be separated.”

The park wants more time to ensure it is in compliance with the law.

The United States is considering similar legislation and France has banned the captivity of all whales, dolphins and porpoises.