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  • Marineland Killer Whale, Kandu, Dies


    Wednesday, January 11, 2006
    NIAGARA FALLS, ONTARIO - Kandu, a killer whale who entertained customers at Marineland for decades, has died, Niagara This Week has learned. Marineland marketing manager Ann Marie Rondelli confirmed when contacted by This Week that the orca whose name was synonomous with the entertainment park died Dec. 21. The park is awaiting the results of a necropsy, an autopsy for animals, to determine the cause of death.

    Killer whales in the wild are believed to have a life span of about 50 years. Rondelli said staff at the popular marine park believe Kandu was in his late thirties.

    While the park searches for an answer to why Kandu died, two animals rights groups are asking that Marineland's only male killer whale not be replaced, and that the park's breeding program be abandoned.

    Julie Woodyer, campaigns director of Zoocheck -- a national charitable organization advocating for the protection of wild animals in captivity -- insists whales and dolphins living in the confines of marine park aquariums live unhappy lives and are dying years before they would if they remained in the wild.

    "The problem with Marineland is the adult whales are dying at young ages," said Woodyer, adding the pools marine parks use as whale habitats in no way compare to natural whale environments. "Anything under 40 is too young."

    Rondelli said the death of Kandu has been hard on Marineland staff.

    "Any loss is real upsetting to us," she said. "It's like losing a member of the family."

    Zoocheck's Woodyer said her agency's records indicate Kandu's age was closer to 27, with the Marine Mammal Inventory Report indicating his birth year was around 1978. That record indicates Kandu was captured near Iceland in 1984.

    Kandu had been at Marineland since the mid-1980s and was the largest whale at the marine park, tipping the scales at over 3,600 kilogram (about 8,000 pounds).

    During his youth, Kandu was one of the main attractions at Marineland and was often shown kissing youngsters in Marineland commercials over the last 20 years.

    In recent years, as Kandu became an older whale, he was taken from the King Waldorf Theatre and could be found swimming in Friendship Cove, Marineland's orca habitat where visitors can view and even touch the whales.

    Rondelli believed Kandu to be the only male orca at Marineland and said she wasn't aware of any plans park owner John Holer might have to find a replacement.

    Holer was unavailable for comment at This Week's press deadline.

    In July, 2005, Marineland was celebrating the birth of three beluga whales and Rondelli said all are doing fine. No orcas were born in 2005 but Atheena, a female sired by Kandu, was born in 2004. Rondelli said the one-year-old is doing well.

    While saddened to hear the news Kandu passed away, Dan Wilson, public education director for Niagara Action For Animals (NAFA), was concerned Marineland would be out looking for a new male orca to replace Kandu on the stage and in the park's breeding program.

    "Hopefully they won't get it from the wild, but whether they get one from the wild or from captivity, that whale and its offspring will live a shortened lifespan and lessened quality of life.

    "These animals don't do well in captivity."

    Wilson said Marineland should reconsider keeping whales and dolphins in captivity.

    Woodyer said her records show 18 whale and dolphin fatalities since 1999, with seven of those being orcas. She added five of those whales hadn't even reached the age of seven before passing away.

    She'd like to see Marineland move more towards a Paramount Canada's Wonderland-type amusement park and away from its live whale and dolphin exhibitions, saying they more about entertainment and money-making than education and conservation.

    "I'd like to see them focus more on rides and attractions that don't harm animals."

    Source: Niagara This Week

    The Orca Zone 2006