Philip Demers (aka "The Walrus Whisperer") (born March 21, 1978 in Welland, Ontario) was a professional marine mammal trainer at Marineland in Niagara Falls, Ontario. He is best known for his unique relationship with a captive walrus named Smooshi. Demers’ animal training career began in 2000 at Marineland of Canada where he was employed until August 2012. In 2007, Demers became the focus of mass media attention regarding his unique relationship with a captive Pacific walrus named Smooshi. Their relationship garnered the attention of such television programs as CBC’s The National, Inside Edition, and Jimmy Kimmel Live!. Demers left his position at Marineland citing allegations of negligent treatment of the animals and unhealthy conditions. Demers was a contestant on Wipeout Canada, becoming the winner of the first episode of the Canadian edition of the show.
Marineland has launched lawsuits targeting myself, former orca trainer Christine Santos and animal care supervisor Jim Hammond. My latest round of legal bills totaled more than I will earn in this year -- $100,000. Our lawsuits are shining examples of the urgent need for the anti-SLAPP legislation that is Bill 52: Protection of Public Participation Act. It is unbearable to think that this historic piece of legislation -- as it is currently written -- will not apply to the very people who have largely inspired it. Why is the province turning its back on us and leaving us behind? Where is the procedural fairness for those of us who are already proceeding with unfair cases before the courts in Ontario?
In 2005, the Vancouver Aquarium sent five harbour seals to Marineland Canada and they suffered in the poor conditions. I was one of the employees who received them. Maintaining balanced water chemistry was always a challenge for the maintenance employees, and dangerous spikes in chlorine and ozone off-gas levels were common. One particular incident claimed Pepper the harbour seal's life. Her suffering and subsequent death I recall vividly.
05/02/2014 04:56 EDT
In Taiji, Japan 52 dolphins were taken captive (to be sold to international aquariums) and 40 were slaughtered for their meat. Of the 52 captives, despair will most likely also be their "inexplicable" cause of death. This assertion may seem bold, but as a former marine mammal trainer of 12 years at Marineland of Canada, I can attest to the grief and suffering these sentient beings experience.
01/24/2014 05:41 EST
But as detailed in <em>The Star</em> investigation into Marineland, serious understaffing has been one of several concerns expressed by myself and the other former employees who have exposed Marineland for its lackadaisical operation. What job losses do we fear from better protecting Ontario's animals? The fact is, if zoos and aquariums were held to higher standards, it follows that more jobs would be created!
09/26/2012 03:34 EDT
By now, you know all you need to about Marineland. You know that it's a house of horrors for the animals that live there. Some time has elapsed since the initial uproar, and much of it has been spent sending kids back to school or catching a TIFF film or two. We now find ourselves in a scary limbo. Public awareness just isn't enough. If we don't start acting on our convictions, then our province will continue to regress.
09/13/2012 07:55 EDT
In May of 2012, I made the difficult and desperate decision to leave Marineland after about eight years of being a trainer for Smooshi the walrus. I could no longer bear witness to the suffering, and could ill afford to waste any more time. I simply didn't have a choice anymore. There are many changes I'd like to see in animal protection laws, but I also need to be reunited with Smooshi. Her health concerns me, and the quality of her life is greatly negotiated in my absence. She needs me as much as I need her. Her vulnerability humbles me, and she makes me a better human being.
09/06/2012 07:53 EDT
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