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