THE # OF DEATHS
140 DOLPHINS AND WHALES HAVE DIED AT SEA LIFE PARK
CAUSES OF DEATH INCLUDE:
THE MARINE MAMMAL INVENTORY REPORT:
The Marine Mammal Inventory Report is compiled by National Marine Fisheries Service. Facilities holding marine mammals captive for exhibition (like dolphinariums and swim-with-dolphin facilities) have to report all births and deaths to NMFS as required by federal law.
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51 bottlenose dolphins
36 spinner dolphins
13 pantropical spotted dolphins
11 false killer whales
9 short-finned pilot whales
9 rough toothed dolphins
3 melon headed whales
5 hybrid species
3 pygmy killer whales
91 of these were captured from Hawaiian waters.
2 of these false killer whales came from Taiji, Japan.
SEA LIFE PARK'S ALLEGED ANIMAL ABUSE AND NEGLECT
Over the years in the local news:
May 1964- A false killer whale was accidentally killed by staff a few hours after it was captured when it was given too many tranquilizers.
Nov. 1990- Sea Life Park animal curator (at the time) Marlee Breese is accused by a very brave group of employees in a letter to one of the park owners of multiple acts of "alleged animal abuse, animal negligence, and food deprivation." A summary of allegations in a letter to National Marine Fisheries Service can be downloaded below. Descriptions included:
- “if an animal defies her, she retaliates by physically hitting them or hits them with an object”
“she has beaten Amiko (bottlenose dolphin) with a pole because he would not move”
“there have been instances where an animal receives inadequate care of facilities due only to personal negative feelings towards that animal."
"food deprivation is another form of abuse”
“Marlee has advised trainers to cut their animals rations, using food deprivation as a punishment or a training tool.”
“We had a large shipment of sardines come in and some animals ate them while others refused. To get rid of hem faster, she insisted that the animals not be fed at all until they had eaten the sardines first. They could have fed this type of food to those who preferred them as we were not introducing this type of food into their diet permanently. One sea lion has nothing to eat for over a week and had lost a considerable amount of weight before he was allowed to be fed again. Many other animals had drastic ration reductions as a result.”
Although about 20% of the time the fish comes back up when tube feeding monk seal pups, “at these times, Marlee becomes frustrated, shoves the tube and fish carelessly and painfully down their little throats. She does this as fast as possible and in anger. If it keeps happening, she throws the equipment down and leaves, depriving the animal of food. The internal organs can easily be damaged by such rough abusive behaviour. This happens on an almost daily basis with at least one of the pups."
“Blood was being taken from an adult sea lion in the feeding pool and a three year old imprinted sea lion was watching the procedure. She was not in the way or disturbing the process but Marlee approached her to try to pet her and when the sea lion barked threateningly Marlee punched her in the face as hard as she could.”
“A two year old female sea lion was being trained to go up and down the stairs at HOT (Hawaii Ocean Theater) and to eventually perform in the show. It is inevitable during the course of training that sea lions jump into the dolphin tanks and sometimes the tank has to be drained and the animal caught and taken out. This is normal in the training process and part of the job. Marlee did not want this to happen and when it did she became so angry that when the tank was drained and the animal wrapped in a net, it was dragged roughly down the steel stairs bumping off every stair… When she reached the bottom, she was thrown into the holding tank and Marlee repeatedly kicked her while she was wrapped in the net until she was able to get free and run into the water.” The letter adds, "everyone involved was horrified but again afraid to speak up."
“On Sunday, August 9, 1990, an eight week old sea lion was taken from the training area to the seal pool, this pup was being bottle fed as her mother was not lactating. In an effort to get the pup to eat, Marlee held her down with one hand around her neck, forcing her to the ground and with her knee in her back, attempted to force the bottle into her mouth. The natural reaction was to try and get away by turning her head to bite. Marlee slapped the pup with all her strength across the face several times and then dragged her to the grassy area adjacent to the seal pool and attempted it again. The same thing occurred three more times and each time was followed by several very hard punches in the face.”
Oct. 1992- Captive born California Sea Lion pup, Hanau Hope, dies of heat exhaustion at less than two years old, after being accidentally left in a drained pool by a trainer.
July 1993- Anonymous reports that the pinnipeds are being neglected and deprived of food.
December 1993- Anon. (redacted name) sends a letter of formal complaint to NMFS against Sea Life Park and Marlee Breese. They request an NFMS investigation of the charges given to the park in 1990.
April 1994- Sea Life Park is fined a total of $500 by the USDA for two different violations of "inappropriate handling and feeding" that "represent severe violations of the regulations and contributed to the death of multiple animals" from incidents in May 1991 and October 1992. A former Sea Life Park worker reported the violations of a dolphin that died in 1991 after its tank was partially drained (Okoa) and a sea lion (Hanau Hope) that was left in a holding tank without water and became dehydrated and overheated in 1992.
Operations manager, Jay Dowsett, falsely tells Honolulu Advertiser that the “deaths were the first from other than natural causes in the park’s 30-year history.”
August 1994- "Sea Life Park is fined for briefly stranding two false killer whales." APHIS stated, "A Sea Life Park employee left the drain open in Pen #3, in the false killer whale pen containing two whales. After about 1/2 hour, a security guard discovered the open drain which had left approximately 2 feet of water in the pen. One whale sustained an abrasion to its dorsal fin."
This is the third time Sea Life Park has been fined for accidentally stranding their animals in less than five years.
In 2003- A bottlenose dolphin Laukani was three days into labor, attempting to deliver an already deceased near-term calf. She needed a fetotomy, the dissection of a dead fetus still inside the mother's womb. The usual attending veterinarian had called a local veterinarian and despite her concerns about never having performed such a procedure, insisted he would talk her through it over the phone. When the local vet arrived she found Laukani and her partially protruding calf dead. Later a USDA inspector noted, “at no time during her travail did she receive any on-site veterinary examination or treatment.”