25 Mar 2015

Marineland's closure blow for sea life - critics

7:52 am on 25 March 2015

The closure of Marineland in Napier has highlighted concerns there are no longer any facilities in New Zealand to rehabilitate injured or sick sea mammals such as fur seals so they can be returned to the wild.

New Zealand fur seal Mr Bojangles is off to Gold Coast Seaworld in Australia.

New Zealand fur seal Mr Bojangles is off to Gold Coast Seaworld in Australia. Photo: RNZ / Graeme Acton

Marineland opened in 1965 and was a Napier icon for decades.

It housed several species of native marine wildlife, including the common dolphin, the New Zealand fur seal, California sea lions and otters.

Marineland has been closed to the public since 2008, but continued to look after rescued sea mammals such as sea lions and seals.

The final three residents - New Zealand fur seals Mr Bojangles, Molly, and Pania - left Marineland last night and are on their way to Australia, making way for the demolition of the facility later this year.

Mr Bojangles and Molly were heading to Gold Coast Seaworld, and Pania was going to Melbourne Zoo.

A group that tried to save the marine park, The Friends of Marineland, said many people did not understand that Marineland was not just about seeing dolphins perform tricks.

Secretary of the group, Sue MacDonald, said the facility also took care of injured or sick marine mammals.

"The work that it did in rehabilitating other sea creatures and releasing them was legendary. People knew if they found a marine creature, Marineland would be able to look after it.

"It means now if any marine animal comes up on the beach it is more than likely to be either euthanised or left to die because there is no place that specialises in looking after these animals," she said.

Senior supervisor at Marineland, Regan Beckett, agreed that marine mammals such as fur seals found injured or sick in the wild will probably have to be put down or left to die following the closure of the park.

"It's sad that some species get all the tender loving care that's required: however, when it comes to marine mammals, for some reason, people believe that nature should take its course.

"I don't see any difference between that and a kiwi or pukeko or anything like that. I think its ludicrous," he said.

Mr Beckett said the closure of Marineland was a result of an edict from the Department of Conservation that there would be no indigenous marine mammals in captivity by 2015.

Napier mayor Bill Dalton said Marineland was an icon for Napier and it was sad to see it close.

The now derelict Marineland will be turned into a skate park later this year.

The now derelict Marineland will be turned into a skate park later this year. Photo: RNZ / Graeme Acton

"But everything has its day, and the days of keeping very large marine mammals in a very restricted area is gone.

"So we've been able to find a home for these mammals in areas where they've got greater population, greater tourist numbers and therefore greater facilities and we're rapt to see them find a home like that," he said.

Mr Dalton said the council would begin work on turning the Marineland site on Marine Parade into a skate park and entertainment facility later this year.

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