LETTER: Asia for Animals Condemns Abuse of Marine Life at Zhengjia Polar Ocean World


(All photos credit Animals Asia, used under CC BY-NC 2.0)

Sent to:

Mr. Wang Xuguang
Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer
Haichang Holdings
No.1 Lianjingyuan
Huale Street,
Zhongshan District
Dalian 116001
People’s Republic of China

February 2016

大连市中山区华乐街涟景园1号, 海昌集, 116001



Dear Mr. Wang Xuguang,


We are writing on behalf of the Asia for Animals coalition, representing international organisations with extensive knowledge of animal welfare and conservation issues, including those pertaining to the captive marine mammal industry. We express our deep concerns regarding the poor living conditions for the animals currently being housed at the recently-opened “Zhengjia Polar Ocean World” facility in Guangzhou.


Dead grouper in foreground; in background, a whale shark, the world's largest fish growing up to 40 feet long

Dead grouper in foreground; in background, a whale shark, the world’s largest fish growing up to 40 feet long

News reports and photographs that have been widely disseminated on various social media networks document the wholly unacceptable conditions under which the animals are being kept, resulting in immense animal suffering. Observations show walrus calves and beluga whales in small tanks swimming around in circles, and arctic wolves and foxes pacing, all signs of stereotypic behaviours, demonstrating psychological distress. Dead groupers were also observed in one of the tanks.


We also note that close contact photo opportunities are available for members of the public with the beluga whales, posing not only severe concerns for animal welfare but also to public safety. Some diseases that are found in terrestrial and marine wildlife can be transferred to humans and vice versa. In addition, some species, including all cetaceans, can inflict serious injuries on trainers, so inexperienced tourists are at even more risk. Trainers have been injured and some killed by captive orcas; captive dolphins and belugas, as well as pinnipeds, have also seriously injured trainers and tourists.


We believe it is only justifiable to keep animals in captivity if both their physical and behavioural needs can be provided for. These needs are extremely complex for the species exhibited at the Zhengjia Polar Ocean World, and it is evident that these needs are not being met due to the poor quality of the facilities.



Beluga at Zhengjia Polar Ocean World

The confined space provided for the 6 beluga whales does not allow them to perform many of their natural behaviors. They cannot swim as they would naturally in the wild, dive, hunt, and they would rarely need to use their echolocation as the sound waves produced cannot reach far. When individuals have conflicts among themselves, they have nowhere to avoid each other. All these aspects are likely to create stress which can lead to depression, aggression, disease and possible death.


Confining cetacean species in captivity presents serious welfare issues. The vast majority of the cetaceans held in captivity in China have been captured from the wild, using invasive, highly stressful and potentially lethal methods. Purchasing wild caught cetaceans is likely to have a detrimental impact on the wild population. The beluga whales are likely to have been taken from Russian waters where beluga populations are declining and the captures are not sustainable.


During capture, family and group members are separated from each other, and mortality rates for some cetacean species increase six-fold during and immediately after capture or transport [1]. Studies are rarely conducted to ascertain the impact on those animals left behind.


Once removed from their natural environment, whales are transported to small enclosures that are only a fraction of the size of their natural home range, and are lacking their family members and social groups, causing immense distress to these highly social and intelligent animals.


Walrus cubs at Zhengjia Polar Ocean World

Walrus cubs at Zhengjia Polar Ocean World

Whales and dolphins are wide-ranging, social animals and captivity cannot provide them with the social, visual and auditory stimuli of their natural environment. They must adapt to an artificial diet, strange noises, and the unnatural proximity of people and other captive animals. Many will suffer from the stress of confinement, which often results in aggression and other behavioural abnormalities, reduced calving success, stomach ulcers, and reduced immune response. These in turn result in poor quality of life, reduced life expectancy and higher infant mortality than what the animals would experience in the wild.


Decades of research on cetaceans has revealed that their brains are large, complex and capable of sophisticated thought. Cetaceans have demonstrated culture [2], tool-use [3], individuality [4], consciousness, and self-awareness [5].


Cetacean performances and close contact opportunities do little to educate the public on issues of natural behaviours, ecology, or conservation status, and there is little objective evidence to indicate that public displays contribute to raising public knowledge of marine mammals and their habitats.


Polar/brown bear hybrid at Zhengjia Polar Ocean World

Polar/brown bear hybrid at Zhengjia Polar Ocean World

Rather, observing cetaceans perform tricks has the potential to desensitize the observer to the suffering of cetaceans in captivity and does little to encourage the compassion and empathy necessary to invoke actions to protect wild cetaceans from exploitation. The welfare concerns associated with the removal of cetaceans from the wild and their confinement to small tanks or pools cannot be justified on the basis of potential educational benefits to the general public. Indeed, in viewing these animals at Zhengjia Polar Ocean World, the general public would learn that removing animals from their natural habitat for the entertainment of humans is acceptable, and that animals displaying clear signs of distress are ‘normal’ behaviours. This is not a message China’s public, particularly its children, should be learning when visiting one of your facilities.


Polar bears, arctic wolves and foxes are also species that do not adapt well to captivity, often exhibiting stereotypic behaviours. Captivity restricts their natural foraging behaviour and this is replaced by the exhibition of locomotory stereotypies such as repetitive pacing. In many cases this pacing becomes more prominent during times when the animal is expecting to receive food, and researchers have documented captive polar bears pacing more on days when they have not received any food. These animals may also pace in an attempt to escape from their current situation as this is causing them a degree of stress.


Arctic foxes at Zhengjia Polar Ocean World

Arctic foxes at Zhengjia Polar Ocean World

The stereotypies observed in the polar bear, wolves and foxes at your facility are likely to have developed out of stress and deprivation caused by the captive situation, and prolonged periods of stress are likely to cause both physiological and psychological problems for these individuals.


Walruses live in large herds in the wild, and the calves may stay with their mothers until they are 5-6 years old. The staffs have informed members of our team that these calves are just 2 years old, yet they have been separated from their mothers at this young age and are now confined within a space which allows them very little opportunity to express their natural behaviours.


Shopping malls are not appropriate locations for wildlife species to be exhibited, in doing so it delivers a message that these animals are simply another commodity to buy and consume, rather than important natural elements of ecosystems that need our protection.


Black swans and visitors at Zhengjia Polar Ocean World

Black swans and visitors at Zhengjia Polar Ocean World

We see from the many social media posts about this facility that the public is clearly concerned about the animals’ welfare. We thereby urge you to take immediate steps to improve the welfare of the animals, and in the interest of both the health and welfare of the animals and the public, we request an immediate end to any close contact activities.


We urge Haichang to stop buying wild caught cetaceans, to stop breeding captive cetaceans, and to evaluate the existing captive cetaceans to see if any can be reintroduced to the ocean.


We thank you for your consideration of our recommendations and urge you to reconsider the exhibition of marine and arctic wildlife in this and future shopping malls. In doing so you will be demonstrating your commitment to ensuring improved living conditions and better welfare standards for all captive wild animals within China.




[1] R. J. Small and D. P. DeMaster, “Acclimation to captivity: A quantitative estimate based on survival of bottlenose dolphins and California sea lions,” Marine Mammal Science 11 (1995): 510–519.

[2] Krutzen, M., et al Cultural transmission of tool use in bottlenose dolphins, Proceedings of the National Academy of Social Sciences of the USA, June 21, 2005 vol. 102 no. 25 8939-8943

[3] Patterson EM, Mann J (2011) the Ecological Conditions That Favor Tool Use and Innovation in Wild Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops sp.). PLoS ONE 6(7): e22243. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0022243

[4] M.C. Caldwell et al., ‘Review of signature whistle hypothesis for the Atlantic bottlenose dolphin,’ in The Bottlenose Dolphin, edited by Leatherwood and Reeves, 199-234

[5] Reiss, D,, and Marino, L., Mirror self-recognition in the bottlenose dolphin: A case of cognitive convergence PNAS 2001 98 (10) 5937-5942

For further information please see “The Case against Marine Mammals in Captivity,” http://www.humanesociety.org/assets/pdfs/marine_mammals/case_against_marine_captivity.pdf and ”Killer Controversy,” https://awionline.org/sites/default/files/uploads/documents/AWI-KillerControversy-OrcaCaptivity-03272014.pdf


AfA Coalition logo







Sent on behalf of the following organisations:

  1. Animal Guardians动物守护者
  2. Animal People动物公民
  3. Animals Asia Foundation亚洲动物基金
  4. ACRES动物关注研究和教育社团
  5. Blue Cross of India印度蓝十字会
  6. Change for Animals Foundation为动物改变基金会
  7. Earth Island Institute地球岛屿协会
  8. Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations印度动物保护组织联盟
  9. Humane Society International美国国际人道对待动物协会
  10. International Animal Rescue国际动物援救
  11. International Fund for Animal Welfare 国际爱护动物基金会
  12. Philippine Animal Welfare Society菲律宾动物福利协会
  13. Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals 英国皇家防止虐待动物协会
  14. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Hong Kong香港爱护动物协会
  15. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Sarawak 沙捞越防止虐待动物协会
  16. World Animal Protection世界动物保护协会

Supported by:

  1. AAP Rescue Centre for Exotic Animals, NETHERLANDS
  2. All Life In A Viable Environment, JAPAN
  3. Andhra PRadesh Goshalala Federation, INDIA
  4. Anima, MACAU
  5. Animal Friends, CROATIA
  6. Animal Friends Niigata, JAPAN
  7. Animal Projects & Environmental Education, MALAYSIA
  8. Animal Protection Network, SWEDEN
  9. Animal Rights Action Network, IRELAND
  10. Animal Rights Centre, JAPAN
  11. Animal Sanctuary Trust, INDONESIA
  12. Animals Australia
  13. ARK Animal Refuge Kansai, JAPAN
  14. Australians for Animals
  15. Bali Animal Welfare Association, INDONESIA
  16. Bali Sea Turtle Society (BSTS), INDONESIA
  17. Behavioral & Environmental Solutions, USA
  18. Beijing Pet Adoption Day北京领养日, CHINA
  19. Beijing Sunflower Friends of Animal Team 北京市向日葵动物之友志愿者团队, CHINA
  20. Bharatiya Prani Mitra Sangh, Hyderabad, INDIA
  21. Blue Cross Youth Seva Sangham – Andhra Pradesh, INDIA
  22. British Hen Welfare Trust, UK
  23. Cat Welfare Society, SINGAPORE
  24. Causes for Animals Ltd, SINGAPORE
  25. Cee4life, AUSTRALIA
  26. Centre for Orangutan Protection, INDONESIA
  27. Changchun 3.10 Shanxiao Fund 长春10善小基金, CHINA
  28. Changsha Small Animal Protection Association 长沙市小动物保护协会, CHINA
  29. Chengde Cat Forest 承德猫咪森林流浪猫救助团队, CHINA
  30. Chengdu Home of Love Small Animal Rescue Center 成都市双流县爱之家动物救助中心, CHINA
  31. China Farm Animal Protection Coalition中国农场动物保护联盟, CHINA
  32. China Journalists Salon for Animal Protection中国动物保护记者沙龙, CHINA
  33. China Youth Animal Protection Alliance中国青年动物保护联盟, CHINA
  34. China Zoo Watch, CHINA
  35. Compassion Unlimited Plus Action, Bangalore, INDIA
  36. CPR Environmental Education Centre, INDIA
  37. Dalian VSHINE Protection of Animals SPCA大连市微善爱护动物协会, CHINA
  38. Darjeeling Animal Shelter, INDIA
  39. David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation, UK
  40. Djurskyddet Sverige (Animal Welfare Sweden), SWEDEN
  41. Dobro Surtse, BULGARIA
  43. Dzivnieku Draugs, LATVIA
  44. Egyptian Society of Animal Friends, EGYPT
  45. Elephant Asia Rescue & Survival Foundation, HONG KONG
  46. ElephantVoices, KENYA
  47. Ente Nazionale Protezione Animali – Onlus, ITALY
  48. Environment Films, UK
  49. European Animal Protection Foundation / Europaeische Tierschutzstiftung, SWITZERLAND
  51. Fanciers Nanning Stray Cats 南宁流浪猫论坛, CHINA
  52. Finnish Federation for Animal Welfare Organisations (SEY), FINLAND
  53. For Elephants International,
  54. Four Paws, UK
  55. Four Paws International
  56. Friends of the Earth, MALAYSIA
  57. Fuzhou Aixinyuan Stray Animal Rescue Center 福州爱心缘流浪动物救助中心, CHINA
  58. Fuzhou Small Animal Protection Center 福州小动物保护中心, CHINA
  59. Gansu Green Volunteer Home 甘肃绿色志愿者之家, CHINA
  60. GREY2K USA Worldwide, USA
  61. Greyhound Compassion UK
  62. Guangdong the Best Volunteer Center首善广东志愿者中心, CHINA
  63. Guangyuan Bo’ai Animal Protection Center 广元市博爱动物保护中心, CHINA
  64. Guangzhou Cat -Xi Xi Forest 熙熙森林广州猫, CHINA
  65. Hefei Kennel Association Care Center合肥犬业协会小动物关怀中心, CHINA
  66. Help Animals India, INDIA
  67. Himalayan Animal Rescue Trust, INDIA
  68. HK Dolphin Conservation Society, HONG KONG
  69. Huhhot Angel Guardian呼和浩特天使守护动物保护公益团队, CHINA
  70. Iceland Animal Welfare Foundation, ICELAND
  71. In Defense of Animals, INDIA
  72. International Otter Survival Fund, UK
  73. International Primate Protection League
  74. Jakarta Animal Aid Network, INDONESIA
  75. JBF India Trust, INDIA
  76. Jinan Cattery济南猫窝,CHINA
  77. Karuna Society for Animals & Nature, INDIA
  78. Kathmandu Animal Treatment Centre, NEPAL
  79. Korea Animal Rights Advocate, REPUBLIC OF KOREA
  80. Korean Animal Welfare Association, REPUBLIC OF KOREA
  81. Lanta Animal Welfare, HONG KONG
  82. Lanzhou Street Animal Rescue Station 兰州流浪动物救助站, CHINA
  83. Life Conservationist Association,關懷生命協會TAIWAN
  84. Lifelong Animal Protection, HONG KONG
  85. Light of Life Veterinary Clinic, SINGAPORE
  86. Love Wildlife Foundation, THAILAND
  87. Lucky Cats幸运土猫志愿者团体, CHINA
  88. Marine Connection, UK
  89. MelbournDolphin, AUSTRALIA
  90. org
  91. Nanchang Small Animal Protection Association 南昌小动物保护协会, CHINA
  92. Nanjing Ping An A Fu Stray Animal Rescue Association   南京平安阿福流浪动物救助会, CHINA
  93. Navale Consulting Group, INDIA
  94. Orangutan Aid, HONG KONG
  95. Palawan Animal Welfare Association, PHILIPINNES
  96. People For Animals – Chennai, INDIA
  97. People For Animals – Hooghly, INDIA
  98. Pet Orphans Home汪汪喵呜孤儿院, CHINA
  99. PETA Asia 亚洲善待动物组织, HONG KONG
  100. Plant & Animal Welfare Society, INDIA
  101. Qingdao Society for the Protection of Animals 青岛爱护动物协会, CHINA
  102. RAKSHA – Voice of the Voiceless, INDIA
  103. Rattle the Cage Productions, THAILAND
  104. Royal Veterinary College, University of London, HONG KONG
  105. RSPCA Victoria, AUSTRALIA
  106. Sahayog Organisation, Andhra Pradesh Goshalala Federation, Hyderabad, INDIA
  107. Shandong Yantai Caring Street Animals Rescue Shelter山东省烟台市爱心流浪动物救助收容中心, CHINA
  108. Sichuan Qiming Companion Animal Protection Center四川省启明小动物保护中心, CHINA
  109. SJZ One Meter More Love stray cats rescue group石家庄一米爱流浪猫救助团队, CHINA
  110. Society for Animal Welfare and Management, NEPAL
  111. Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals – Penang, MALAYSIA
  112. Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals – Selangor, MALAYSIA
  113. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Xiangzhou, Zhuhai)珠海市香洲区爱护动物协会, CHINA
  114. Soi Dog Foundation, THAILAND
  115. Stiftung fuer Baeren / Foundation for Bears, SWITZERLAND
  116. Stray Relief and Animal Welfare, INDIA
  117. Sun Bear Centre – Kalimantan, INDONESIA
  118. Swiss Animal Protection SAP / Schweizer Tierschutz STS / Protection Suisse des Animaux PSA, SWITZERLAND
  119. Taiwan SPCA台灣防止虐待動物協會, TAIWAN
  120. Thai Fund for Elephant Foundation, THAILAND
  121. The Cattitude Trust – Chennai, INDIA
  122. The Corbett Foundation, INDIA
  123. The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, KENYA
  124. The Home of Love, CHINA
  125. The Humane Education Trust, SOUTH AFRICA
  126. The Welfare of Stray Dogs – Mumbai, INDIA
  127. The Winsome Constance Kindness Trust, AUSTRALIA
  128. Tianjin Common Home中国天津共同家园, CHINA
  129. Together for Animals in China与牠同行动物福利促进协会, CHINA
  130. United Against Elephant Polo, INDIA
  131. Voice for Zoo Animals, JAPAN
  132. “We Are One Family” Charity Association of Chongqing Normal University 重庆师范大学“天下一家”公益协会, CHINA
  133. Wildlife Alliance, CAMBODIA
  134. Wildlife in Need (and Active Environments), PHILIPPINES
  135. Wildlife Protection Society of India, INDIA
  136. Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation Centre, Bangalore, INDIA
  137. Wolf Watch UK
  138. Wuhan Small Animal Protection Association武汉市小动物保护协会, CHINA
  139. Xi’an Grenadine Companion Animal Rescue Center 西安红石榴伴侣动物救助中心, CHINA
  140. Xiamen Animal Protection Education Association厦门爱护动物教育专业委员会, CHINA
  141. Xiamen Pet Web 厦门宠物网, CHINA
  142. Xinjiang Karamay City Street Animal Protection Centre新疆克拉玛依市流浪动物保护中心, CHINA
  143. YeuDongVat, VIETNAM
  144. Zhangzhou Small Animal Scientifically Rescue Center 漳州市小动物科学养护救助中心, CHINA
  145. Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, ZIMBABWE
  146. Zoocheck Canada, CANADA


Copied to:

Mr Xie Meng
Vice President and Executive Director
Grandview Mall
Tianhe Road No 28
Guangzhou City
People’s Republic of China



Mr. Han Changfu
Ministry of Agriculture
N°11 Nong Zhan Guan Nan Li,
Chao Yang District,
100125, Beijing
People’s Republic of China



Wen Bin
General Director
Guangdong Provincial Ocean and Fishery Bureau
Nan Cun Road No.10
Haizhu District
Guangzhou City
People’s Republic of China



Dr Zhongqiu Zhang
Director General
Veterinary Bureau
Ministry of Agriculture
N°11 Nong Zhan Guan Nan Li, Chaoyang District,
100125, Beijing
People’s Republic of China



Mr. Zhao Shucong
Minister of the State Forestry Administration
State Forestry Administration
No 18, Hepingli Dongjie
Beijing 100714
People Republic of China


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The Asia For Animals (AfA) Coalition is composed of 16 well-known and respected animal welfare organisations that have a shared focus on improving the welfare of animals in Asia. We are committed to providing support to organisations to help with their campaigns to tackle some of the most pressing animal welfare concerns in the region. Click to see author's profile.

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