Tag: Atlantis Sanya

Questions for Merlin Entertainments, WDC, Zhonghong, and PETA

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I invite those I’m questioning in this post to respond. Answers will help direct future posts.

For Merlin Entertainments:

In your October, 25, 2112 letter to NOAA Fisheries objecting to the receipt of 18 wild-caught belugas by the Georgia Aquarium and its partners, Janine DiGioacchino wrote:

“. . . . cetaceans are not suited to captivity…no matter how spacious or well-designed
the facilities.

“They are wide-ranging, highly intelligent and social animals which suffer acute
sensory deprivation in any kind of unnatural confinement.”

If this is how the company feels about cetaceans, does it feel this way about other wide-ranging, highly intelligent and social animals? If so, why are you keeping and breeding just under a dozen gorillas at a theme park on the outskirts of London?

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For Zhonghong Zhuoye and Zhonghong Holding:
  1. Did your subsidiary Sun Wise UK default on paying its $150,000,000 loan issued by Pacific Alliance Group (PAG) and applied to purchasing Blackstone’s shares of SeaWorld stock? If so, is PAG taking ownership of those shares?
  2. Sources working within the attractions industry tell me that you announced the location of your first Chinese SeaWorld-branded park without first notifying SeaWorld that you had determined a location. Is this true?
  3. Why did you make an announcement on the 28th of this month that Jiaduobao Group and Yinyi Capital had agreed to invest equity in Zhonghong Holding, when the result was Jiaduobao announcing that it had never signed an agreement with you and Yinyi announcing that it was unaware of the contents of the agreement?
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For WDC:
  1. At the same time you were working on releasing Chinese belugas to a sanctuary, were you aware, as a member of the China Cetacean Alliance, that two wild-caught belugas had been transferred to Atlantis Sanya in October of last year, along with twelve (according to Ceta-base: 6 bottlenose, 4 Pacific White-sided, and 2 pantropical spotted) dolphins captured and transferred from Taiji earlier this year?
  2. Were you aware, as the adviser to Thomas Cook on cetacean welfare, that, regardless of the fact that the owner of this resort also has an ownership stake in Thomas Cook, the travel agency was planning to sell packages to Atlantis Sanya?
  3. Is there a reason, being that you are the adviser on cetacean welfare to Thomas Cook (per publicity issued both by yourself and Thomas Cook), that you did not ensure the company did an advance assessment of the facility prior to including it in its sales portfolio?

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For PETA:
  1. If it’s still called Barnum’s Animal Crackers, doesn’t it still pay homage to Barnum and his circus menagerie?
  2. Did you notice how the new art is reminiscent of classic circus art designed to deceptively pull in audiences by showing animals living together in the wild (see slideshow below)?

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  1. Was this a grassroots PETA campaign, or did you piggyback on another group’s work, as I’ve been told you’re prone to do?
  2. Did you forget about the statement you made regarding The Greatest Showman (accessible via this prior blog post of mine)?
  3. Considering you’re PETA, do you even care that your victory is incomplete?

The Other Side of the News marine life park edition part two: A PETA consultant shows he doesn’t care about animals

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Look, I don’t know Luke Steele. I’ve never met him, never heard of him before I wrote my blog post about Thomas Cook and Fosun.  I think I hurt his feelings, because after all those months of campaigning to get Thomas Cook to drop SeaWorld and Loro Parque, some smart ass California moron (that would be me) says “Yeah, but why aren’t you addressing this?”

I know a few animal rights activists and talk with them once in a while. Some of them, like Howard Garrett and Naomi Rose and Ingrid Visser – when they celebrate victories and someone asks “Yeah, but why aren’t you addressing this?”, they answer “We celebrate this now. We celebrate more victories in the future, like that one.”

Steele doesn’t appear to understand this concept, which is an inherent central attribute of activism of any kind. Instead, as mentioned before in this blog, he intentionally sought out anywhere my post was shared in social media and attempted to paint it as a false claim.  I wonder if Steele in his insecurity realizes that in telling activists that the Thomas Cook/Fosun relationship is untrue, he’s actually not only failing in his effort to vilify me, he’s also claiming that animal rights activists are complicit to a lie – a lie well founded in documentation.

But there’s one comment that just blew me away, though not directly tied in with my post:

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Glad somebody liked his comment. Now Steele is correct. Thomas Cook has no responsibility over what Fosun does…

…strictly from the standpoint of business law. (By the way, Mr. Steele, Fosun is not an investment bank. It’s an investment firm and there’s a HUGE difference).

From an animal rights activism standpoint, Steele has absolved Thomas Cook of the responsibility of meeting its stated animal welfare objective and has thrown hundreds of animal rights activists and their efforts under the bus. Bravo.

But Thomas Cook made a public commitment towards animal welfare which, although they are a for-profit company, places them in the public trust for this topic.

In December 2016, Thomas Cook CEO Peter Frankhauser wrote:

We know that for many people, animals in captivity of any form is unacceptable. However, it is a sad truth that many captive animals cannot be safely returned to the wild. Tourism has a big role to play in raising standards for those animals during the transition to ending the practice of capturing animals for entertainment, and ending practices that are known to harm animals.

The 2017 Thomas Cook sustainability report states:

Beyond our auditing efforts, it is key for us to create a step change in our industry
towards higher welfare attractions in our industry.

To that end, we are committed to promoting and developing sea sanctuaries as a financially sustainable, higher welfare attractions which can provide a long-term alternative to captive whales and dolphins.

So here’s a question: Why would Thomas Cook tell both SeaWorld and Loro Parque that if they passed their audits, they would continue to be sold, only to announce they were being dropped at the same time Thomas Cook started selling packages to a dolphin resort owned by a company that is both in a joint venture with Thomas Cook and owns a portion of the British travel company itself?

You might need to read that two or three times to take it all in.

Now understand, I’m not out to disparage Fosun. I have some issues with where they sourced their animals (Taiji, Russia), but I leave it to you as to how you feel about Atlantis Sanya.

As Steele pointed out, Thomas Cook is an independent company that sets its own policy.

And Steele is correct in that Thomas Cook does not finance marine life parks….

…at least directly.

So Thomas Cook should have no role in affecting the operation of a marine life park that it shares an owner with.

Except there’s precedent….

Remember when both Merlin Entertainments and SeaWorld Entertainment shared a common owner – investment firm Blackstone Group (which is kind of the American version of Fosun)?

Well, this happened:

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While Steele was busy scouring the internet to protect his manhood from the emasculating nature of my post (it must have been the profile of that white sided dolphin), Dolphin Freedom UK took the opposite approach. Using my post as a springboard, along with their own research, they reported about the potential conflict on their blog, which then went viral in its own right.

The result of their effort? Thomas Cook announced that it will audit Atlantis Sanya.

I have this fear that perhaps Thomas Cook isn’t being so honest about its commitment to animal welfare. Its stock is about half the value it was a year ago.  Part of me wonders if this is an attempt to bring in a new audience – the animal rights audience – to supplement losses in other markets. Part of me wonders if the sudden dropping of orca parks was an attempt reminiscent of SeaWorld, where Joel Manby suddenly ended orca breeding in a not-well-thought-out effort to quiet animal rights protesters.

If Thomas Cook is being sincere, I don’t know if just audits for certification are enough. The ABTA guidelines for cetaceans in captivity can be found here. I don’t think it’s enough for a company pledging to protect animal welfare to just make guidelines available and say whether a property has passed or failed its audit.

Even as a for-profit company, once you dedicate yourself to a public cause, you develop a public trust, and that trust requires transparency.

I urge everyone, no matter what your view on captivity, to contact or petition Thomas Cook to make those audits publicly available. If the company is to share whether a facility passes or not, it should also tell us why, help us know what’s wrong with it so that we can work as a community to improve the lives of the animals who live there, regardless of our feelings on captivity.

And while you’re at it, see if they have any checks that need to be delivered to Luke Steele.

For the life of me, I can’t figure out why someone hired by PETA, an organization that preaches “Animals are Not Ours to Use for Entertainment,” would go to such lengths to deny Thomas Cook’s association with a dolphin park that it shares owners with.

PART THREE WILL RUN TOMORROW. HOW A SINGLE LINE IN A CHINESE NEWS REPORT PUT A CANADIAN THEME PARK ON THE DEFENSIVE

If you’re applauding Thomas Cook for dropping SeaWorld and Loro Parque, you haven’t seen the other side of the two headed dragon

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News out of the UK media today is that Thomas Cook is dropping SeaWorld and Spanish animal park Loro Parque from its ticket and package sales services.

And if you’re a touchy, feely, save the animals type, you must be giddy with joy that Thomas Cook recognizes what you know to be the pain and suffering of captive animals.

Which could only mean one thing….

….You don’t know Thomas Cook.

You see, Thomas Cook is 12% (up from an initial 5%) owned by Guo Guangchang, one of the wealthiest men in China, with a net worth of around US$7.6 billion.

He is the founder and Chairman of Fosun.

Fosun owns a 25% stake in Cirque du Soleil, which includes its recent acquisition Blue Man Group.

LA Premiere of Cirque du Soleil's "KURIOS - Cabinet of Curiositi

Fosun also owns an 85.6% stake in resort chain Club Med.

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In 2016, Fosun and Thomas Cook launched a joint venture – Thomas Cook China, to provide travel services to affluent Chinese tourists. Fosun owns 51% of the new company.

As I’m writing this on July 28, twelve days ago, the same Thomas Cook that’s, according to the British media, dropping SeaWorld and Loro Parque, announced a strategic partnership with the government of Hainan Provence to promote tourism to the emerging Sanya market.

And what’s in Sanya?

The recently opened US$1.74 billion Atlantis Sanya, owned by Fosun and managed by Kerzner International, a resort company controlled by the royal family of Dubai.

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And at Atlantis Sanya, you can find this fellow (the one on the left):

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And these guys. You can even swim with them for a fee.

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And this guy (the one swimming in the back, that is):

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And these guys too:

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So if you think Thomas Cook is sending a lesson to marine life parks, they really aren’t. They’re just dropping emphasis on one part of the world as they prepare to support the marine life industry in another through their partner Fosun. It’s the head on the other side of the dragon you’re not seeing.

As for Hainan, there are at least six major aquariums and theme parks with whales and dolphins that have either just opened, are under construction, or are under development for the island. Imagine six resorts the size of SeaWorld Orlando – or larger – in an area the size of the US state of Maryland.

That’s a lot of cetacean parks for Thomas Cook to sell tickets to.

Falcon’s Creative: Real and Virtual Adventures Under the Sea

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While researching an unrelated piece, I began realizing that for a number of years, Falcon’s Creative Group has been at the forefront of redesigning the aquarium and marine life park experience – through virtual worlds, real animals, or a combination of the two – ranging from an interpretive coral reef experience at the Florida Aquarium (above) to a concept for an innovative live killer whale exhibit (below).

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Following are a gallery of photos, videos, and conceptual artwork for some of the biggest marine life projects to come from this Orlando-based creative design and media production company.

TurtleTrek, SeaWorld Orlando

Following a journey through two aquariums, one with rescued manatees, the other with rescued sea turtles, guests experience a 360 degree dome presentation in 3D showcasing the life of a turtle, encouraging them to become everyday heroes in protecting the environment.

Manta, SeaWorld San Diego

After visiting a gallery with real rays, guests board a roller coaster car and are launched from a media tunnel where they experience life under the sea with a school of animated mantas. The launch tunnel was overseen by Falcon’s.

Media Canopy, Chimelong Ocean Kingdom

Five distinct storylines appear on the 300 foot long, 100 foot wide media screen that covers the entrance to this Chinese marine life park.

Deep Sea Odyssey, Chimelong Ocean Kingdom

The ride attraction integrated into Chimelong’s world record-breaking aquarium tank, Deep Sea Odyssey combines animatronics, animation, projection mapping, and real whale sharks into a single experience.

Ocean Odyssey, National Geographic Encounter

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC ENCOUNTER is a first-of-its kind immersive entertainment experience that harnesses ground-breaking technology in new ways to transport guests on an incredible underwater journey. Visitors walk through the experience with friends and family, journeying across the Pacific Ocean to interact with and encounter the ocean’s greatest wonders and mightiest creatures. Guests will come face-to-face with humpback whales and great white sharks, Humboldt squid and sea lions, and animals you’ve never dreamed of…in ways they’ve never seen. Opening October.

Atlantis Sanya Resort

A joint project of Chinese company FUSON (owner of Club Med and Cirque du Soleil – Blue Man Group) and Kerzner International (Atlantis The Palms Dubai), this is one of three marine life parks currently under construction in the Sanya resort area of China’s Hainan Island. In addition to the traditional Atlantis animal attractions of a swim with dolphins program and a waterslide descent through an aquarium tank, Sanya will feature a number of firsts for the brand – including belugas, whale sharks, and a dolphin performance arena. Opening 2018.