PETER CONRADI and JOHN ROBBINS/Bullet News
Reports of mass unlicensed animal graves at Marineland has attracted the attention of the Ontario Enviornment Minsistry, which is conducting a site inspection of the Niagara Falls theme park today.
Ministry spokesman David Oved told Bullet News Thursday that officials are visiting Marineland to “gather information” about the allegations. The Toronto Star reported Thursday there are four burial sites, two of them containing the bodies of more than 1,000 animals each.
A second Environment Ministry spokeswoman, Kate Jordan, told The Star Wednesday the inspection was a “high priority” after the department got reports about mass graves near the Welland River.
“We are concerned about the locations of the sites because (they) are so close to a water course,” Jordan told The Star. “Because of the scale, size and location of the allegations, we will be looking for evidence of potential adverse impacts.”
Environment Minister Jim Bradley said he first learned of the issue Thursday morning through the media. Bradley said the ministry’s inspectors and investigators do not report to political bosses.
“They do it of their own volition if they receive a complaint,” said Bradley, the MPP from St. Catharines. “They are similar to the police in that they are not directed by the minister or the government.”
Marineland spokeswoman Ann Marie Rondinelli issued the following statement to Bullet News in response to questions posed about the inspection:
“This morning Marineland was visited by an inspector from Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment looking for information on animal interment at our park. He was welcomed and our staff fully cooperated with his requests. He viewed the site where we have sadly, had to bury old and sick animals who have died here through the years. Another team will arrive tomorrow. They, too, will be welcomed here. We expect that their inspection will be completed quickly.
Rondinelli continued: “Marineland has always fully cooperated with environmental inspectors and all investigators who are looking into the welfare of animals because we share the same goals.
“It is a sad truth that animals in zoos and aquariums die at the end of their lifespans. We have always treated our animals with love and respect both in life and death and we do the same with their remains. We have always paid the strictest attention to the law in how they are buried.”
(This story is in development. Please check back later for updates.)