Campaign to free Lulu the turtle

The-Latest - EXCLUSIVE

Animal rights activists are picketing Brighton's Sea Life Centre and calling for the public to boycott the popular tourist attraction on Britain's south coast despite legal threats from the powerful multi-national owners.

Brighton Animal Action (BAA) claim they have uncovered a disturbing catalogue of abuses involving the captive marine life at the centre which has infuriated Merlin Entertainments Group, who describe themselves as 'the world's No 2 visitor attraction company'. Merlin also own controversial Chessington World of Adventures (where gorillas are allegedly being mistreated), Madame Tussauds waxworks, Alton Towers, Legoland, The London Eye and The London Dungeon.

The company have sent solicitors letters to activists threatening to recover money from the protesters as a result of any 'loss or damage' caused by their actions against the Sea Life Centre. TLT Solicitors said that the Sea Life Centre 'takes great care to guarantee the welfare and well-being of the animals in its care". They added: "Our client believe that the BAA and its supporting organisations have chosen to ignore these facts and have targeted the Centre with a damaging and potentially defamatory campaign..."

But BAA insist that their investigations have uncovered animal abuse including:

* Lulu - the green Pacific turtle, who has been captive since she was caught from the wild more than 60 years ago, showing signs of stereotypic pacing behaviour in her barren tank. Plus, only last week a pensioner was allowed to swim with her. This has raised concerns about the significant health risks this may pose as turtles, like many reptiles, carry the salmonella virus.

The centre has received numerous complaints from the public regarding the small size and unhygienic condition of many of the tanks. In particular there was a complaint from a fisherman who pointed out to the staff about the small size of the catfish tank. The response he got was that  "people are always complaining about the size of that tank" .

* Rays with the ends of their tails missing  — this a sign of stress and overcrowding, so why is the centre breeding them? Abnormal surface breaking behaviour of Rays is encouraged by allowing the public to feed them from the surface of the tank. The centre even advertise this in their promotional material. This poses not only a risk to the animals through injury or disease, it is also a risk to public health and safety. It may also encourage the abnormal behaviour of the marine life.

* Lack of hygiene regulations  — children are encouraged to touch animals but there is nothing other than a sign to say they should wash your hands

* The seahorse that was not returned to the wild after it was caught when ill but has since recovered

* Crabs with limbs missing

* Leaks in the building

* Security staff assaulting peaceful demonstrators

* Cayman island turtles imported from the notorious Cayman Islands Turtle Farm

It is a good idea for concerned members of the public to raise these matters with the centre management. You are most likely to get a positive response if you keep your letter short, free from provocative language, stick to the facts and it is polite. Otherwise the management will simply assume this is part of a concerted campaign against the Sea Life Centre and throw the letter in the bin!

Victory

On May 17th 2006, the Sea Life Centre was given the green light by Brighton planners to build two outdoor tanks for seals and short claw otters at its entrance. B AA campaigned against this development before and after the proposal was granted planning permission. Their campaign not only received huge public support but was also supported by the RSPCA, British Marine Rescue Divers, Captive Animal Protection Society and International Animal Rescue.

The Sea Life Centre had planned to begin work building the tanks in August. However on Monday 24th July they issued a press release to the Brighton Evening Argus newspaper stating that the pools would not be built and the development had been cancelled.

They claimed that the decision was nothing to do with the BAA campaign which, though it was based solely on getting people to sign a petition, they referred to as  "extremists". According to the Sea Life Centre, sea snakes have been added as an exhibit and this was their reason for cancelling the seals and otters. It seems they won't even pretend they are concerned about public opinion or animal welfare.

Since the start of this campaign an undercover investigator has discovered some disturbing examples of animal cruelty that are taking place inside the Sea Life Centre:

There are numerous cases of small and overcrowded tanks. After all, the Sea Life Centre is in a listed building dating back to Victorian times; therefore the management are extremely limited in the changes they can make, including improving many of the tanks.

The-Latest would like to see the place investigated further.

Members of the public are urged to voice their objections to Brighton's licencing chief Tim Nichols: tim.nichols@brighton-hove.gov.uk with their concerns about the Sea Life Centre.

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4 Responses to "Campaign to free Lulu the turtle"

denise's picture

denise

Fri, 04/13/2007 - 18:56
Thank you for covering this story. After being deprived of even natural sunlight Lulu deserves to be set free, to feel the sun on her back and fresh air in her lungs. We accept that Lulu will not be able to go back into the wild, but we cannot allow her to be kept in an underground tunnel for another 60 years. The dolphins were released from Brighton Dolphinarium 18 years ago, we did that through the public being educated and boycotting the centre. We can do it again. Lulu will be free! denise Brighton Animal defender
contribs editor's picture

contribs editor

Fri, 04/13/2007 - 21:20
Lulu&#39;s story is very moving. After 66 years in captivity she certainly does deserve to spend the remainder of her life in as natural an environment as possible. You can see, in our image of her on <em>The-Latest, </em>how very sad she looks. Denise and her fellow campaigners deserve our best wishes and support in their endeavours. Let us hope Lulu&#39;s shameful treatment is brought to an end soon.
chris's picture

chris

Sat, 04/14/2007 - 09:06
<p><strong><u>Chris Gaynor</u></strong></p> Why is it that companies big or small always use the defamatory excuse when they are being investigated? It really does send a shiver down my spine when I hear of animals being mistreated in these places. Maybe we should put these people in a cage and see how they like being locked up etc? I hope the campaign goes according to plan and may LULU soon be set free!

sparx

Sat, 04/14/2007 - 13:03
This is a great story!&nbsp; Lulu the turtle should be freed. Keep up the good work with this campaign.