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In this photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, a white whale blows heart-shaped bubbles in the water at the Harbin Polarland in Harbin, capital of northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2010. The white whales in the Polarland gained the skills as a new year gift for visitors after one-year of training, Xinhua said. (AP Photo/Xinhua, Wang Jianwei)

China loves orca whale shows. But it may be making the same mistakes US parks did.


Marine parks are booming in China, including shows involving killer whales that have become increasingly unpopular in the U.S.

But animal rights activists say China hasn't learned from the mistakes of SeaWorld and other U.S. marine parks, leaving the whales sick and overcrowded, USA Today reports.

China has 44 ocean theme parks, with 18 more sent to open soon. That's a 20 percent increase in just two years. The number of animals in captivity doubled to nearly 500 between 2010 and 2015.

A trainer will be injured or killed sooner or later. It'd be sad because it's totally avoidable.
Naomi Rose, Animal Welfare Institute

Naomi Rose, a marine mammal scientist with the Animal Welfare Institute, recently visited the parks. She said the conditions are putting the trainers in danger, not just the whales.

We're very much concerned about the conservation and propagation of these wildlife mammals.
Chimelong Ocean Kingdom statement

One show, entitled Chimelong Ocean Kingdom, shows trainers nuzzling with whales. Observers have noticed possible signs of skin infections where the trainers touch them. 

One breeding tank featured six whales packed inside, even though none of them were old enough to mate. 

FILE - In this Nov. 30, 2006, file photo, a young girl watches through the glass as a killer whale passes by while swimming in a display tank at SeaWorld in San Diego. SeaWorld San Diego is ending its controversial and long-running killer whale show. The show that featured orcas cavorting with trainers and leaping high out of a pool ends, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2017. This summer, the park will unveil a new attraction in the pool. Orca Encounter is being billed as an educational experience that will show how killer whales eat, communicate and navigate. The park has 11 orcas. (AP Photo/Chris Park, File)

In other shows, guests can pay to touch bottlenose dolphins. But since they're not disinfected first, that can lead to diseases. Other experts noted signs of dolphins fighting due to cramped living quarters.

FILE - In this Monday, March 7, 2011, file photo, killer whale Tilikum, right, watches as SeaWorld Orlando trainers take a break during a training session at the theme park's Shamu Stadium in Orlando, Fla. Troubled theme park operator SeaWorld says it will soon stop paying its shareholders a quarterly dividend. It will pay its last dividend on Oct. 7, 2016, and the amount it pays will be cut 52 percent to 10 cents from 21 cents in the previous quarter. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)

Killer whale shows were deemed illegal in California last September. The documentary "Blackfish" contributed to the shows' declining popularity. Tilikum, the whale featured in "Blackfish," died in January.

The Chinese treat the mammals like commodities that they can throw away. They figure they can buy more if they can't keep them alive.
Mitchel Kalmanson, consultant

Mitchel Kalmanson, whose consulting firm has overseen deliveries of whales to China, says show organizers don't respect the animals' rights.

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