SINGAPORE: Underwater World Singapore (UWS) and the Dolphin Lagoon are set to close on Jun 26 after 25 years of service, operator Haw Par announced on Monday (Jun 6).
Haw Par said that UWS had to vacate the facility and cease operations as the lease on the Sentosa attraction was expiring in less than two years. Its pink dolphins, fur seals and otters have been transferred to Chimelong Ocean Kingdom in Zhuhai, China.
Underwater World Singapore when it opened in 1991. (Photo: Haw Par)
Chimelong Ocean Kingdom has "one of the finest facilities in the world and a strong staff with expertise in marine mammal veterinary and husbandry care, as well as an active breeding and conservation programme", said Haw Par.
"Although UWS’ lease is not ending yet, ensuring that our CITES animals have a good home to relocate to is our responsibility and we decided to facilitate their transfer to COK and to cease operations earlier," it added. "The transfer of the UWS CITES animals to COK was approved by the authorities in Singapore and China and the animals were relocated last week."
As for its 70 staff, Underwater World Singapore told Channel NewsAsia they will be compensated in accordance with Singapore's Employment Act. It is also working with unions to organise a month-long outplacement programme to enhance their career-readiness and will consider them for internal re-deployment. "We will assist the staff, within our means, to look for alternative job opportunities since they have acquired valuable experience and knowledge during their employment with UWS."
Before the announcement, the "meet the dolphins" session at UWS had been closed since May 26, according to a notice on its website.
To mark its closing, UWS will provide free admissions to beneficiaries from charity partners it worked with in the past. From Tuesday (Jun 7), tickets will also return to 1991 prices, when the attraction first opened - S$9 per adult and S$5 per child.
INCREASED COMPETITION; STRUCK BY SCANDAL
UWS has faced increased competition since the Marine Life Park - which includes Dolphin Island and the S.E.A. Aquarium - opened at Resorts World Sentosa in 2012.
The Dolphin Lagoon was relaunched in 2010 after a revamp, and also welcomed the birth of a pink dolphin calf, Splish, in November 2014.
However, scandal struck the park earlier in 2014. In August that year, animal welfare groups Wildlife Watcher (Singapore) and Sea Shepherd Conservation Society published a report, detailing the "appalling" health of dolphins held at the Dolphin Lagoon as well as "sub-standard" conditions of other animals at Underwater World Singapore.
In response, UWS said that the dolphin in the report had non-transmissible skin cancer, and was being treated. It added that its facility complies with the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority's (AVA) licensing conditions for animal conditions.
The Marine Life Park at Resorts World Sentosa has also attracted its fair share of complaints, most recently in 2014 after the report of a dolphin death in the park. Three other dolphins out of a total of 27 set for the Marine Life Park died before they reached Singapore.
"WE GREW UP COMING TO UNDERWATER WORLD": VISITORS
Visitors at Underwater World spoke to Channel NewsAsia about the attraction's 25-year history as well as its mixed legacy.
"We grew up coming to Underwater World so it's definitely really sad that it has to go, but I guess they face stiff competition from S.E.A Aquarium," said Vanessa Ho, 23, who works in operations. She added: "Animals belong in the wild; (the fact that) that Dolphin Lagoon is closing seems right". Businesswoman Irene Torio, 44, agreed, saying that dolphins "belong in the wild and to keep them in captivity is not a good idea".
Rhalina, 35, a tourist from Perth, added: "I think it's a shame because we too lost our equivalent. I didn't get to see the dolphins but they do enjoy the company of people, and it's a good educational tool."
Said engineer Val Tan: "It's sad that it's closing. I remember coming here in primary school when it had just opened and now I'm 32, but we're glad we got to bring our baby here before it closes."
But for Jennifer Ng, 29, a Vietnam national who works in Singapore, her visit came a little too late. She told Channel NewsAsia: "Today I brought my family (from Vietnam) to see the dolphins but they aren't here anymore." She mused: "But I guess it's good that they move. If I were in the same place for 25 years, I'd like to make a move too."