|Adam Fox of Kitchener, Ont. enjoys a close encounter while feeding a beluga whale at Marineland's Arctic Cove. (Jim Fox/QMI Agency)
NIAGARA FALLS, ONT. - Officials from Marineland said the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums has cleared the park after an inspection Thursday, but the agency says that’s not the case and the investigation is ongoing.
In a press release issued late Thursday night, Marineland marketing manager Ann Marie Rondinelli said the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA) didn’t find any problems with the park’s marine mammals or the facilities their kept in.
“No major issues were found,” the press release quotes experts from CAZA as saying. “The co-operation of all of the staff in responding to the committee’s questions and making the facility available for their inspection was excellent.
“Overall the collection’s health looked very good.”
However, reached at the CAZA office in Ottawa, the agency’s national director wouldn’t confirm those comments were made. Bill Peters said he wasn’t at the inspection and needed time Friday to have a conference call with the investigators.
CAZA, an industry agency that gives accreditation to zoos and aquariums in Canada for keeping their facilities up the the association’s standard, was one of the agencies that visited Marineland Thursday. The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) and Niagara Falls Humane Society also took part in an inspection prompted by concerns raised nearly two weeks ago by former trainer Phil Demers about water quality, animal accommodations and staffing levels at the theme park.
By Friday afternoon, the agency had taken another step back saying the CAZA investigation is “still ongoing.”
Through a statement released to the media, Peters said the results from the inspection would be submitted to an accreditation review.
“It is expected that process will take approximately a week, at which time a decision will be rendered,” that statement said.
While CAZA certifies aquariums and zoos across the country, it doesn’t have the power to charge parks for animal treatment infractions or shut them down. Parks can remain open without CAZA certification, but Peters told QMI Agency in a recent interview it’s nearly impossible to exchange animals with other parks across North America without it.
The agency that can lay charges is the OSPCA.
After the more than two and a half hour inspection Thursday morning, OSPCA inspector Steven Toy said no information on the results of the investigation would be released until all of the parties had conferred.
The OSPCA issued a statement Friday morning saying, “an investigation is underway and proceeding with due diligence. To protect the integrity of the investigation we cannot provide further details at this time. We will provide information when the investigation is complete.”
Marineland offered no further comment on the issue when contacted Friday.