Ocean Park Hong Kong
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Animal Care Q&A

1. Where did the dolphins in Ocean Park come from?

Nearly 30% of the dolphins in Ocean Park originated from wild populations and were imported in 1987 and 1997 from Indonesia. The remainder were born under human care, including two from a South African park. Ocean Park has not imported any wild-caught cetaceans since 1997.

2. How does Ocean Park ensure a smooth acclimatisation process for highly sensitive koalas?

Eight months prior to the arrival of the first batch of koalas in Ocean Park, several husbandry staff were stationed in Adelaide, South Australia to undergo training in koala care and become acquainted with the animals. A koala keeper from Cleland Wildlife Park in Adelaide accompanied the koalas to Hong Kong and shared techniques and experiences with our team.

3. How does Ocean Park build relationships with the animals?

A relationship based on trust is built through daily interaction, such as in feeding, playing and caring. We spend time observing the animals’ behaviour and getting to know their individual characters. All animals are treated with care and respect.

4. Why does Ocean Park put sharks together with other animals?

Sharks are part of the marine ecosystem. They share their habitats, such as coral reefs, with many other neighbours. Some sharks even form mutualistic relationships with animals such as cleaner wrasses and remoras. In our aquariums, you will find aquarists distributing food on the water surface and hand-feeding larger fish under water. Providing sufficient food keeps the animals healthy and ensures they coexist peacefully.

5. Why don’t the birds in Ocean Park fly away?

Well, they could. However, the birds become familiar with their neighbourhood and form a close bond with their animal keepers. There have been occasions where birds have flown away, usually due to change in the environment or some unexpected stimulation. In such cases, the husbandry team investigates possible locations the birds might have flown to and conducts a search. Some birds are fitted with a radio transmitter while outdoors so we can track them by picking up their signal with a receiver.

6. Is it unnatural for dolphins to do the things we see in the shows in Ocean Park?

Animal behaviours such as leaping, whistling and tail slapping on display in Ocean Wonders can all be seen in the wild when dolphins forage and interact with each other. Our relationship with the animals is one of respect and we regard them as partners in our conservation advocacy.

7. How does Ocean Park determine if a dolphin is suitable for participating in presentations?

We monitor the health and character of our animals before determining whether they can participate in a public presentation. We ensure that all animals engaged in presentations have sufficient rest, time to spend with their conspecifics, and play. Rest periods are maintained regardless of the number of guests visiting the Park.

8. What does Ocean Park do if an animal does not participate in a presentation when asked?

It is up to the animals to decide whether to participate or not. Their engagement in any kind of training programme can fluctuate, in part due to their normal physiological cycles, for example their reproductive status, growth, seasonal thermoregulatory demands, and general well-being. A change in an animal’s normal behaviour, in training activities or in public presentations, could also be an indication of a change in the animal’s social situation. All changes in behaviour are investigated and the husbandry staff seek first to understand the reason behind the change, in case any additional monitoring is needed.

9. Does Ocean Park have special arrangements for aged dolphins?

Yes. The Park provides the best care possible for all animals along their life journey. Aged animals, including dolphins, still require mental and physical stimuli, so they continue to be engaged in enrichment, research, training, and social activities. These things provide psychological challenge and some level of physical exercise. They also allow for a stress-free experience for animals during health-monitoring procedures. Aged dolphins are not involved in presentations or breeding.

10. Why does Ocean Park euthanize some ill or injured animals?

Care and treatment always come first whenever we encounter ill or injured animals. Euthanasia is only considered if the suffering of an animal cannot be resolved or alleviated after care and treatment and the condition has reached what we call a “humane endpoint”. A humane endpoint is the earliest scientifically justified point at which the pain or distress of an animal can be prevented, terminated, or relieved, while meeting the aims and objectives of maintaining positive animal welfare. We engage experienced animal experts and review all possible options before a decision to euthanize is made.

11. Could the dolphins in Ocean Park be released into the wild?

The dolphins at Ocean Park are either old in dolphin years (over 30 years old) and have spent most of their lives out of the wild, or they were born under human care. An “augmentation” or introduction programme would need to follow the IUCN/SSC reintroduction guidelines. If Ocean Park’s dolphins were to become part of such a programme, many criteria would need to be considered, including but not limited to:

  • The captive-bred dolphins would need to be reintroduced within a managed marine protected area.
  • The work should not detract from efforts to enforce in-situ conservation of cetaceans within the proposed augmentation area.

12. How does Ocean Park decide if a rescued or confiscated animal should be released into the wild?

The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) is the owner of all animals it rescues or confiscates during the rehabilitation period. The decision as to whether an animal is suitable for release is made by the AFCD, together with advice from Ocean Park and OPCFHK. There are international guidelines for coming to these decisions, which also require veterinary expertise as well as species-specific animal knowledge. The animal’s abilities to forage, to defend itself, and to fulfil its social requirements are some of the criteria for consideration.


References:
IUCN, S. (2013). Guidelines for reintroductions and other conservation translocations. Gland Switz Camb UK IUCNSSC Re-Introd Spec Group.
Müller, M., Boutière, H., Weaver, A. C. F., & Candelon, N. (1998). Ethogram of the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus), with special reference to solitary and sociable dolphins. Vie et Milieu (France).