Elizabeth Salaam 11 a.m., Sept. 17
Not walrus weather
Sea World planning to import female walrus for display, marine mammal experts say climate is less than ideal
Sea World Parks & Entertainment Inc. is in the process of obtaining permits to import a female walrus bred in captivity in Japan to its San Diego theme park for public display purposes, according to an October entry in the Federal Register.
Not everyone is excited about the development.
Naomi Rose, a senior scientist with Humane Society International, expresses concern for the well-being of captive walruses in general, as well as at Sea World specifically. While pinnipeds such as walruses are generally sedentary while on land, they are migratory creatures that in the wild can travel hundred or even thousands of miles through the ocean – small, chlorinated freshwater pools at display facilities are not only insufficient to satisfy the animals’ natural desire to travel long distances, the ratio of water to “land” (usually concrete formed to artificially resemble rock outcroppings) is intentionally imbalanced in order to encourage the animals to spend more time out of water where they’re more easily viewed by paying park patrons, Rose says in a 2009 report arguing in general against holding marine mammals in captivity for human entertainment.
“The biggest problem with SeaWorld’s program is that the enclosures for walruses in the Wild Arctic exhibit are of course not so wild – they are indoors and therefore the walruses never see natural light and are living in temperatures that are, generally speaking, summer-like - it is too expensive to bring the temperature down to appropriate winter conditions for any of the Arctic mammals, which include polar bears and belugas,” Rose tells the Reader.
Because the walrus in question was bred in captivity, Rose says there isn’t much that can be done to protest its importation, and the permit application is mostly a procedural formality.
Sea World San Diego did not acknowledge a Reader request for comment.
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