Updated 12 August: The war of words continues as Loro Parque goes public with all the letters of support it has reeived from various organizations (HERE), and a full statement HERE summarized below (if links don’t seem to work just remove the “s” from the “https”) :
A little less than a year ago Loro Parque, on request of Thomas Cook, has been audited by Global Spirit (a company linked to the Born Free Foundation) to determine the compliance in our facilities according to the ABTA animal welfare guidelines. The inspection confirmed the 100% compliance of these standards, which is not only the highest score, but guarantees that not only the orcas but all animals at Loro Parque are kept under the highest welfare standards and the strict regulations of ABTA are fulfilled.
Therefore, we ask ourselves: what value does the ABTA certificate with 100% compliance have, if within no time a tour operator decides to finalize a long term good business relationship? Will there be any other zoological institution in the future that will accept an audit of this kind? Are the ABTA guidelines for animal welfare of any use?
In its announcement Thomas Cook states that 90% of their customers take animal welfare serious. We are more than happy to hear that since the welfare of the animals is our outmost concern however, Loro Parque in the last 45 years of cooperation has not received a single complaint or any comment of concern regarding the welfare status of the animals in our care, neither from a Thomas Cook customer nor from the tour operator itself.
Which concerns are we talking about? Unless the customers of Thomas Cook, that have chosen to visit Loro Parque, and many of them repeatedly, are watching over the same standards that Loro Parque manifests in its daily work, offering the best welfare to all the animals in our care.
… The decision of Thomas Cook is clearly led by anti-zoo organizations leaded by a minority of activists not really concerned about the animals, but just aimed in destroying the zoos and their conservation, research and educational activities. But this will not change our determination to continue working for the welfare of every single animal in this world, and for the conservation of the biodiversity in a planet threatened by the sixth extinction as has been scientifically proven. Already now with 700 million visitors in zoos worldwide it is clear that a zoo visit is a highly demanded activity which in light of the destruction of our nature and environment will become an absolute “must” in the future.
Fortunately, Loro Parque is this year welcoming more visitors than ever, and even without the partnership of Thomas Cook we will continue offering all our visitors a unique opportunity to get to know the wonders of wildlife and become part of our mission: to protect and preserve the animals and their natural habitats for future generations.
… It is important to note that the British tour operator Thomas Cook took this decision, despite the fact that Loro Parque has all documents on animal welfare in order and up-to-date, on its own account and individually, while this kind of decision can be very harmful for all ecological institutions worldwide.
This is why we are making this case public and transparent. We want to share with you the multiple letters of support that we have received since Thomas Cook published its announcement and we ask you to read the scientific argument prepared by Dr. Javier Almunia, Director of Loro Parque Fundación, (first link above) which explains in detail why our orcas or any orca under human care cannot be released.
Updated 31 July: Loro Parque has responded to Thomas Cook’s announcement that it will stop selling tickets for package tourists to visit the zoo with the following statement:
The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) believes the Thomas Cook travel agency failed to consider the significant global conservation impact of SeaWorld and Loro Parque, as well as their continued dedication to high levels of welfare for animals in their care, when it announced this week that it would no longer include the marine parks in its travel packages.
Thomas Cook officials said in a statement that the company will no longer include institutions that keep orcas in captivity in their tours.
SeaWorld, based in the United States, has rescued over 31,000 animals in the past five decades through its SeaWorld Cares programme, including pilot whales, dolphins and manatees, among others. The SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund has also provided more than $14 million to animal and habitat conservation projects around the world.
Spain-based Loro Parque, meanwhile, recently launched a €2 million, four-year programme in collaboration with the government of the Canary Islands to study the effects of climate change in the sea, focusing on species such as algae, angel sharks and sea turtles. Loro Parque has also contributed more than $19 million to over 150 conservation projects globally, and research programs at Loro Parque have contributed to the development of prototype bioacoustics and automatic detection of orca vocalizations devices in aid of open sea killer whale protection.
“Thomas Cook focused on orcas but overlooked the ongoing efforts to protect marine species around the world,” said WAZA Chief Executive Officer Doug Cress. “Those programmes that rescue pilot whales or save sea turtles are funded by tourist revenue. Thomas Cook sold its clients only a fraction of the true story, and could undermine essential conservation work as a result.”
Both SeaWorld and Loro Parque are members of WAZA as well as members of national associations, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA), respectively. Both parks have passed strict welfare audits by Global Spirit Animals in Tourism Limited and have obtained 100% of the minimum standards required by the Association of British Travel Agents’ (ABTA) Global Welfare Guidance for Animals in Tourism policy.
Loro Parque will also host the 77th WAZA Annual Conference in 2022.
WAZA has committed its members to promoting high levels of animal welfare and issues such as marine litter, sustainable development and the elimination of single-use plastic, and SeaWorld and Loro Parque will remain pivotal players in all those efforts.
“The education programmes at SeaWorld and Loro Parque, and the potential to change behaviour on key issues that instil compassion for animals and protect the oceans, reefs and sea life are what make them such unique institutions,” Cress said. “WAZA urges Thomas Cook to re-consider this decision and let their consumers take part in this effort to protect our natural heritage. It’s not too late.”
Original post 29 July: Loro Parque is a wonderful place, with gorgeous flora and ground-breaking bird work funded by an environmental Foundation that has done marvellous things for avian populations around the world, including bringing some species back from the brink of extinction. Not all is perfect in paradise, however, and aside from the periodic calls by some for all zoos including this one to be banned, very many more have long found it distasteful that the Parque has water creatures, and especially Orcas.
The controversy has ranged from SeaWorld’s influence and practices to Dutch Courts and Morgan’s presence – and now her pregnancy – in Tenerife, and increasingly people have frowned on cetacean captivity regardless of any rulings or expert opinion about how well and healthy they are actually kept. And now, Thomas Cook has announced that it will no longer be offering holidaymakers any trips to Loro Parque where British package-holiday tourists form a good percentage of the venue’s visitors. Obviously there will be many that hope that by increasing pressure through the financial hit the inevitable drop in numbers will cost the Park will persuade it to change its mind where animal welfare arguments have failed.
Thomas Cook says that the decision was taken after customer feedback overwhelmingly demonstrated that travellers not only took animal welfare seriously, they wanted their children to learn it too. Clearly, commercial factors weighed heavily with the corporate decision because the same researched showed, moreover, that customers wanted their holiday company to take animal welfare seriously as well. The company says that its policy is no longer to offer travellers trips to any venues that keep Orcas captive, with chief Peter Fankhauser issuing the following statement:
18 months ago we announced our animal welfare policy because we knew we had to take action to make sure that the attractions we sell were consistent with our customers’ expectations of us. The policy was clear – any animal attractions we sell must be 100% compliant with ABTA animal welfare standards, as verified by our programme of independent audits.
Since then we’ve audited 49 animal attractions, and removed 29 which didn’t meet the minimum ABTA standards that we insist upon. In the remaining 20, we’re proud to say that each one has made significant improvements to the way they treat their animals as a direct result of our audit process.
When we introduced that policy, we recognised that customer expectations were changing when it comes to animal attractions. We also talked about the important role tourism has to play during the transition to ending practices that are known to harm animals.
Today we are announcing a new addition to our animal welfare policy based on that same principle. From next summer, we will no longer sell any animal attractions that keep orcas in captivity.
This was not a decision we took lightly. We always said that we would continue to review our policy, conscious that the more we got into this area, the more we would learn, and conscious also of changing customer sentiment. We have actively engaged with a range of animal welfare specialists in the last 18 months, and taken account of the scientific evidence they have provided. We have also taken feedback from our customers, more than 90% of whom told us that it was important that their holiday company takes animal welfare seriously. That has led us to the decision we have taken today.
Today’s announcement will see Thomas Cook remove two attractions which we currently offer customers, both of which passed our audit process and made improvements to the way they treat animals. We respect and applaud the work that has been done, and we will work with both over the next 12 months to prepare for our exit. We will also continue to work ourselves to identify more sustainable alternatives.
I am clear about the kind of business that we want to be. That’s why we introduced our animal welfare policy 18 months ago, and that’s why we’ve taken this decision today. And when so many of our customers are so clear in their view, I could not allow our business to ignore them.