Ocean Park animals' fate up in the air

Top News | Maisy Mok 15 May 2020

Animal groups have called for a retirement plan for some 7,500 animals in Ocean Park as its future hangs in the air, with lawmakers set to discuss a HK$5.4 billion funding approval today.

The park only has enough money to last until next month if the emergency funding request is not approved.

But the park has not yet announced any retirement contingency plan for its animals, the groups said yesterday.

Regardless of whether the request goes through, Mark Mak Chi-ho, executive chairman of the non-profit Veterinary Services Society, called on the park to devise such a plan.

Mak said the head of park should fulfill an ethical responsibility by ending the dolphin and sea lion shows, as promised in January when the park asked for a now-scrapped HK$10.64 billion cash injection.

Viena Mak Hei-man, spokeswoman for the Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society, urged the park not to release the animals back into the wild and not to use them for entertainment or display purposes.

Mak also suggested that the park improve animal welfare and study the feasibility of building a natural sanctuary for retiring dolphins.

"Some dolphins in Ocean Park were born under captivity, and others have been kept for more than 20 to 30 years," Mak said.

"They have lost the survival skills needed in the wild."

She added: "Setting up a half-open natural sanctuary at the coast can allow dolphins to feel the ocean breeze and provide them a broad area to live. Even if they cannot be fully released back to the wild, at least this will improve their living conditions."

Meanwhile, HK First lawmaker Claudia Mo Man-ching condemned the park for "being dishonest" and blaming its financial losses on the pandemic when it has been losing money for the past four years.

She said her online survey, after receiving around a thousand responses within 20 minutes, showed that almost 99 percent of respondents opposed the cash injection.

"The result shows Hongkongers have lost interest in Ocean Park," Mo said. "Moreover, they feel agitated the only concern they have is what the future holds for the animals."

Pro-establishment lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun also opposed injecting HK$5.4 billion, of which HK$3 billion is said to be for the park to repay commercial loans.

Tien suggested the government should instead inject HK$1.1 billion to let it operate for half a year, under the condition that the money would be used for the park to redirect its position.

"It can either transform into an exciting amusement park that appeals to the global taste so the government can put it up for lease through international bidding, or transform the space for education and conservation usage," he said.


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