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Before the controversies, before the public outrage. Before Marineland’s present owner John Holer was accused of subjecting sea mammals at Marineland to inhumane conditions. Before the expose by The Toronto Star where it was revealed too many “performers” suffered from a variety of illnesses caused by problems with water quality and chronic under-staffing. Before Canadians took a stand against the cruel treatment of animals in captivity. Before that… we all proudly sang along… “Happiness Is Marineland!”
Marineland, Niagara Falls Ontario, 1980. I have no recollection of this day; as a chubby 2-year old toddler, I was likely balancing on my mom’s knee as my father took the photograph. I marvel at the lack of protective gear; instead of wet suits, the trainers are sporting a t-shirt and shorts. An unkempt, grassy enclosure marks the location of the sea lion show. Two red balloons, suspended from the ceiling, are demonstrative of the killer whale’s impressive range.
A scoreboard in the background flips through comedic images featuring “Nootka”, one of five orcas captured off the coast of Iceland in 1979, just one year prior.
“During her life in captivity, Nootka went through eight pregnancies. Many of her offspring survived the most critical days in life, but just two of them reached adulthood, Splash and Neocia. Nootka was described as a very protective mother, and although a moody orca, she was long considered the best performer at the park. Nootka sadly died during off peak season at Marineland in 2008. The cause of death has never been released.” RIP Nootka.