Closure call brings more visitors to marine park
INSTEAD of causing closure, the death of a false killer whale in a marine park in Subic has sparked curiosity and brought in more guests at the Ocean Adventure park.
Ocean Adventure president John Corcoran said the controversy generated by the call of animal rights activists to close down the facility has encouraged people to check out the park on Cawayan Bay in Subic.
"It's not the first time this has happened. We were greeted here by activists; it's an issue we've had to deal with and will continue to deal with," Corcoran said.
"We've seen people coming to the park out of curiosity because some controversy was brought up," he said.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources has said Ocean Adventure would remain open. It has also not required the park to secure an environmental compliance certificate from the agency as the DENR row with Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority over the issuance of permits has not yet been resolved.
Corcoran invited the animal rights activists calling for the park's closure to see the facilities and check the care given to animals.
Ocean Adventure, the only open water marine park in Southeast Asia, spends 35-40 percent of its annual expenditure for animal care.
"I would encourage activist groups to follow our lead... It's going to take a lot more people, animal activist groups, school groups, conservation groups and government all joining hands... for conservation education... Let's set aside the hatred," he said.
Ocean Adventure chief executive officer Timothy Desmond belied claims by Earth Island Institute-Philippines and Philippine Animal Welfare Society that the park was harvesting cetaceans for human amusement.
Desmond said the park's animals were "doomed animals" because they were either wounded or recovered from people who would have killed the animals for food.
Hook, the 13-year-old female false killer whale who died on July 8, was wounded by a harpoon when it was brought to the park.
Hook was the third killer whale to die in the park in four years, possibly of gastro-intestinal illness.
"When we got them here, these animals had a fixed life span. They had one day, but Hook, for example, lived for another seven years because of the care she got here," Desmond said.
Desmond expressed confidence that the Philippine public is "smart enough to know something of value when they see it and to know over time which claims are accurate or not."
A total of 869,441 visitors have been to Ocean Adventure since 2002, of which 28,508 were foreigners. Some 16,000 came from as far as Mindanao and 20,000 from Visayas.
Corcoran said he was expecting the biggest number of guests this year. The company's June 30 report showed 132,176 people have visited the park this year, already more than half last year's total 248,420.
"I think our ethics is what will protect us," Desmond said.