The two giants in the waterpark industry, Marineland and SeaWorld, are in the midst of an ugly custody spat over Ikaika. Who is Ikaika, you ask? He’s a nine-year-old orca whale that the American SeaWorld lent to their Canadian counterpart, Marineland, back in 2006. The deal went down sounding just like a trade you’d read about in the sports section: SeaWorld shipped Ikaika and two sea lions north while Marineland sent four beluga whales down south.
But “lent” was the key word here; Marineland thought the deal was for keeps, SeaWorld felt it was only temporary. In the end, Ontario’s Court of Appeal ruled in SeaWorld’s favour.
“The breeding loan agreement is not a long term agreement,” Justice Stephen Goudge declared in the ruling. “The maximum term of the loan of Ikaika is only four years and thereafter only a year at a time”.
The ruling has only added to the bad blood between the two parks, with SeaWorld pleased with the judge’s decision and Marineland fuming.
“We maintain an abiding interest in the welfare of our animals and do not hesitate to act in their best interest if we feel that a partner institution is not meeting its obligations in veterinary care, husbandry or training,” SeaWorld spokesperson Fred Jacobs told The Toronto Star via email.
However, after being examined by two vets in May, Ikaika was given a clean bill of health.
“It is extremely disappointing that SeaWorld is now unwilling to continue to honour our long term friendship and understanding,” countered Marineland’s owner, John Holer.
It is not known which SeaWorld park – Orlando, San Antonio or San Diego – Ikaika will be shipped to or when.