Marineland says two deer have been killed after a “stampede” during the park’s opening day.
In a statement the Niagara Falls, Ont. amusement park and zoo says during its opening weekend two people who claimed to be father and son repeatedly tried to cause the animals in its Deer Park to panic, eventually starting a stampede then laughed “in the face of staff as they tried to get them to stop.”
While staff tried to calm the deer, officials say, the two men slipped away.
“We are very sad to report two deer lost their lives in this incident,” reads the statement, which claims nothing like this has happened at the park before.
“We are all upset by this terrible act against innocent animals. In order to protect our animals, we are closing the Deer Park to make modifications to prevent this type of incident from ever happening again.”
In a press release park officials said a “small group of annual demonstrators” were at the park for opening day and “continue to seek to damage Marineland at all costs.”
Animal advocate says hundreds protested at park
But Phil Demers, a former animal trainer who worked at the park for more than a decade before becoming an activist and whistleblower, was protesting outside the park along with “hundreds” of others Saturday and says he believes the park is just trying to target animal advocates.
“It’s preposterous. The people that are there are advocating on the fact these animals exist in these horrible conditions,” he said. “We’re not there to harm or kill animals. Marineland harms animals, not animal advocates.”
Demers said he didn’t hear anything about the deer deaths on Saturday. He added the park’s claims nothing like this has happened before is untrue and it “took a gamble” by re-opening the deer park, which he says was shut down for years over concerns about guests and animals getting hurt.
Marineland says it’s undergoing an ‘evolution’
The park, which has long been the subject of protests by animal rights activists, says it’s undertaking a “process of evolution” that’s supported by scientific and academic communities.”
Other than the reference to the dead deer, the park’s statement mainly focuses on positives, saying the long weekend was its busiest opening day in a decade.
It also pointed to a “huge crowd from across Canada and the United States filling the Park [that] dwarfs [a] small group of annual demonstrators” and thanked Niagara police and the city for “setting clear ground rules” for protesters.