ORLANDO (CN) – An “international custody battle over a killer whale” is raging, as Marineland, of Canada, says its orca named Ike has taken a “romantic interest” in another orca there, and moving Ike to SeaWorld in San Diego would endanger both Ike and his new girlfriend, Kiska.
“For its selfish reasons, SeaWorld now is attempting to destroy Ike’s current living environment and put his and Kiska’s health at risk,” Marineland says in its request for a federal injunction against SeaWorld.
“Six years ago, SeaWorld and Marineland entered into a long-term breeding agreement involving the trade of marine animals for the preservation and proliferation of life,” according to the complaint. “At the time, the trade seemed obvious and mutually beneficial. Marineland had the largest population of beluga whales in the world, and SeaWorld had the largest population of killer whales in the world.”
After years of negotiations, the marine parks began their breeding exchange program “by agreeing that SeaWorld would trade one killer whale in exchange for four beluga whales for the life of the whale, unless the recipient was unable to care for the whale,” Marineland says.
Ike came to Marineland from SeaWorld in November 2006, when he was 4 years old – too young for breeding. Marineland says, “There is no dispute that a primary purpose of the trade was for Ike to breed at Marineland.”
But Ike “only became capable of breeding with Kiska approximately at the end of 2010, and he did not show a ‘romantic’ interest in Kiska until earlier this year,” the complaint states. “It is therefore no coincidence that as soon as Ike became capable of breeding, SeaWorld began its efforts to take custody of him. Additionally, it recently became clear that SeaWorld intends to use Ike to replace a male killer whale that passed away suddenly in SeaWorld’s San Diego facilities. It is also no coincidence that this whale died three months before SeaWorld started this custody battle.”
At least some of the problem, Marineland says, is that “in 2008, SeaWorld was sold and taken over by new management. Under the new management, SeaWorld would attempt to frustrate the breeding purpose of the parties’ agreement. …
“SeaWorld’s attempt to take custody of Ike frustrates the breeding purpose of Marineland’s agreement with SeaWorld’s predecessor owners. For its selfish reasons, SeaWorld is attempting to destroy Ike’s current living environment and put his and Kiska’s health at risk. In doing so, SeaWorld also is harming Marineland by taking away one of its major attractions. Ike has been at Marineland for over half of his life, and he cannot simply be replaced. SeaWorld’s actions constitute a breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealings and a breach of the agreements at issue, as reformed.”
SeaWorld began the legal fight, in Canada, “relating to very narrow issues, and SeaWorld prevailed on those issues,” Marineland says, without specifying what those issues were. It adds: “While respecting the principles of comity, the Canadian proceedings do not control here because Marineland was prohibited in the Canadian proceeding from raising the claims in this complaint, and thus the Canadian Court has not and will not rule on the issues presented here.”
And, to be fair about it, Marineland says, the belugas it traded for Ike have helped SeaWorld’s beluga program.
Marineland seeks a permanent injunction stating that it may keep Ike as long as it can care for him, under the terms of its agreement with SeaWorld.
There are 42 captive killer whales in the world. SeaWorld has 24, and Marineland has only Ike and Kiska, according to the complaint.
Marineland is represented by Daniel Gonzalez, with Hogan Lovells, of Miami.