Marineland drops $1.5M lawsuit towards former worker and agrees to rehouse walruses

Marineland drops .5M lawsuit towards former worker and agrees to rehouse walruses
Marineland drops .5M lawsuit towards former worker and agrees to rehouse walruses

After a decade-long authorized battle, former Marineland coach Philip Demers was in a position to see his beloved walrus Smooshi this week, after the Niagara Falls, Ont., vacationer attraction dropped a $1.5-million lawsuit towards its former worker.

Demers, the animal rights activist and whistleblower, is nonetheless banned from Marineland, however was allowed contained in the park Wednesday for a reunion with Smooshi — the primary time he had seen her in a decade, he stated — after information emerged that the authorized points had been resolved.

The lawsuit, filed in 2013 by Marineland, alleged Demers trespassed and plotted to steal the 800-pound walrus. Demers filed a counterclaim, additionally in 2013, for defamation and abuse of course of, he instructed CBC Hamilton. 

After a number of weeks of negotiations, either side have dropped authorized motion and, as a part of the mutual settlement, Smooshi and her calf Koyuk will likely be rehoused as quickly as “reasonably possible” the place “they can join other walruses.”

In a information launch issued Wednesday, Marineland stated “litigation between Marineland … and Phil Demers has been resolved amicably… Mr Demers acknowledges Marineland’s evolution towards education, conservation and research, and its commitment to enhanced animal care.”

Koyuk, Smooshie’s calf, is proven at Marineland. The 2 walruses will likely be relocated after a decade-long battle between Demers and the vacationer park. (Marineland)

Demers stated he would go away the precise location of the place the walruses are going to Marineland to share publicly however that he agrees the brand new location is healthier.

“I’m incredibly pleased. I’m ecstatic,” he stated. “The contrast of where she’s going now, and the fact she will no longer perform and she won’t be under the blazing hot sun and she won’t be separated from her baby anymore, which to me is probably the greatest piece of justice that that animal deserves.”

Koyuk was born in June 2021, however Demers stated the 2 have been saved aside since Koyuk’s delivery so Smooshi may carry out in reveals. 

The battle to free Smooshi

Demers was a Marineland coach for 12 years earlier than turning into a whistleblower and activist, shedding mild on the situations the animals had been residing in on the facility.

Demers stated he determined to make use of the lawsuit to leverage the animals’ launch. 

“It’s been a tunnel vision-like experience for me. I’ve only ever thought about the walrus and the conflict with Marineland.” 

He stated the settlement has taken a weight off him. 

“There’s a certain poetic justice to it all.” 

Marineland nonetheless in courtroom

Demers’s efforts aren’t the one ones which have put Marineland in scorching water for its use of animals.

The animal rights group Final Probability for Animals (LCA) filed complaints towards the power final yr, saying movies confirmed unlawful dolphin and whale reveals. 

Miranda Desa, a lawyer for LCA, stated a 2021 video reveals “dolphins performing tricks to music for an audience” and “beluga whales being instructed to perform tricks for food in front of on-watchers” however that Marineland refers to their reveals as “educational presentations” to get round not having a licence. 

Beneath a piece of the Canadian Prison Code launched in 2019, captive cetaceans — giant sea mammals similar to dolphins and orcas — can’t be used “for performance for entertainment purposes” except the efficiency is allowed with a licence from the Ontario authorities.

Niagara Regional Police instructed CBC Hamilton that the criticism resulted in Marineland being charged with the legal offence associated to the of “use cetacean for performance/entertainment without a licence” and that this cost remains to be earlier than the courts. 

Police stated they’ve obtained further complaints, however as they’re actively beneath investigation, police can’t present additional info. 

Desa stated Marineland could have its seventh courtroom look on Sept. 28 in St. Catharines, Ont. 

As for Demers succeeding in having Marineland rehousing Smooshi and Koyuk, Desa stated it is a crucial step in growing consciousness of “animals in captivity and the harms they suffer, especially at Marineland.” 

In its assertion Wednesday, Marineland stated it “has a historic obligation to care for the marine mammals in its care.

“Marineland should look after its animals and there’s no easy or apparent resolution to rehouse them.”

The most important reunion

Demers called his reunion with Smooshi “highly effective.” He joked it was a red-carpet entrance, adding, “It was extra like gray, dreary, concrete carpet.”

He also tweeted a photo of himself being allowed back onto Marineland’s grounds.

Demers said he plans to keep advocating for marine mammals in captivity, but for now, he’s happy he caught his proverbial white whale in seeing Smooshi and Koyuk being freed from captivity.

Although he wasn’t able to get really close to Smooshi Wednesday, he’s hopeful it’s just the beginning of a new chapter. 

“The door for a lot of extra [visits] is broad open,” he said. “I stay up for all of them.”


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