I can’t in good conscience re-start blogging to the Walrus Web without making the first post about the drama that has sprung up around “celebrity” walrus trainer and friend-of-this-blog Phil Demers and his beloved walrus Smooshi.
We’ve written about Smooshi and Phil before, in this post: Wipeout Canada – The Walrus Connection
However, since then, things have taken a darker turn. Phil and Smooshi are now separated, lawyers are involved, Smooshi and her fellow Marineland animals are allegedly living in poor, or even neglected conditions and there are real concerns that Phil may never be able to see Smooshi again. One can only image what Smooshi must think! The poor walrus must be so confused, wondering why her favorite friend is not around anymore.
This video, of Smooshi calling for Phil, is profoundly sad: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQIuVCp_nSQ
If you don’t know the story of Smooshi and Phil – you should watch one of the many videos on Youtube, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=79um9mr-7TU
The US barely pays attention to the existence of Canada, much less Canadian animal mistreatment complaints, but the Canadian media has been picking up this story, starting with this piece in the Star http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2012/08/15/m
But then one day the Huffington Post picked up the story: “Why I Left Marineland and My Beloved Walrus Smooshi”
Since this story ran, the noise level has amped up, helped out by Phil’s constant presence on Twitter and the assistance of many many re-tweeters, Facebook friends and social media contacts all over the world.
Of course, Marineland is not taking this lying down, and has sued both Phil and another trainer, Christine Santos – the former trainer of Kiska the killer whale, a story with just as much urgency as Smooshi’s.
An indiegogo campaign was started to raise money for a legal defense fund. Thanks to the media attention – it’s been successful. Here is a link to the online petition that has already garnered over 80,000 signatures.
In the interest of being somewhat objective, Marineland’s side of this story is outlined on their press release page: http://www.marineland.ca/general/media_releases/
Like many of you, I enjoy the experience of getting close to animals in zoos and theme parks – and especially in the wild! I know that many people object to animals such as whales, walrus, dolphins and elephants being used as performers. I have conflicted feelings on this myself. But whatever your feelings, I hope we can all agree that if an animal is to be kept in captivity, especially if the animal is a performer or display animal, then it should be afforded the best possible quality of life and compassionate care within surroundings as close as possible to the natural habitat of the animal. I would feel horrible to find that the animals and experience that I and my family had enjoyed were experiencing the type of conditions and mistreatment that the former Marineland trainers allege.
I like Phil, he and I have exchanged several emails since I started this blog and I’ve followed him on Twitter for some time. I have no reason to believe he would lie about the conditions Smooshi is experiencing, so I can only hope he is successful in his campaign to bring more oversight and compassionate treatment to the animals at Marineland.
Please follow Phil on Twitter @walruswhisperer and hope that he will prevail in his efforts to make sure Smooshi and all animals at Marineland get the caring treatment we all assume that the animals we enjoy at these parks receive.
And with that – the Walrus Web is back in action. We’ll keep you posted!