Jun Jun the beluga whale dies under the care of Merlin Entertainments

It has been five long years since Merlin Entertainment bought Changfeng Ocean World in Shanghai. Five long years of daily ‘shows’ where Jun Jun and her two friends would perform unnatural tricks to entertain crowds at the ‘White Whale Theatre’. Back in 2014 we launched our campaign to encourage Merlin, parent company of SEA LIFE aquariums, to release the belugas to a sanctuary.

JunJun spent 10 years in captivity. At least now she is free from her prison. (Photo screenshot from OceanWorld website)


You may have heard about Jun Jun, the beluga whale who we have connected with through her life story. We have watched Jun Jun perform, researched the terrible ‘shows’ she was forced to perform in and written about her exploitation. We feel connected to Jun Jun, the beautiful white whale, in a way that the huge corporation, Merlin, will not understand. Whilst they claim to want to provide freedom for the whales, freedom did not come soon enough for Jun Jun, who died in June at the age of 17, far too young for a beluga whale who can live to 60 years in the wild. She died of a brain bleed. What a sad story, poor Jun Jun, who was taken from the waters of Russia to live the rest of her life in a tank.

Merlin promise they are committed to building a sanctuary for the whales, even stating they are against the keeping of cetaceans (whales and dolphins) in captivity. We know that Merlin have the power and the money, to act on their promise, and build a sanctuary for the belugas, if they really want to. In 2012, when they bought Changfeng Ocean World, they stated that they had plans to open 7 new attractions every year. This is at a cost of £5-8 million for each attraction. This is a huge international company boasting £1,457 million in 2016 revenue which has the capacity to open new businesses at a phenomenal rate. Meanwhile as time passes on and the shows continue, the whales continue in their miserable existence, one so far from a life in the ocean.

Since Jun Jun’s death, Merlin have of course tried to show how much they care about their policy of not keeping cetaceans in captivity, with promise of moving the remaining whales to a sanctuary in Iceland in 2019. Whilst we can of course imagine building a sanctuary for whales is not an easy feat, the sanctuary has taken too long for Jun Jun. For Jun Jun, it is too little too late. We of course now think of the others two whales: Little White and Little Grey and the exploitation they have endured and continue to endure to this day.

We hope, with heavy hearts, that they will survive long enough to taste freedom.

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