Chinese web users have accused an aquarium worker of animal cruelty after he shared a video of him riding a beluga whale onto social media as a ‘show-off’.
The trending footage shows the animal trainer climbing onto the back of the giant mammal before riding the white whale around the pool.
The clip has angered tens of thousands of Chinese web users who are calling for a boycott against such animal performances.
The aquarium later explained to the local media that their workers and animals often have such interactions as part of their regular shows.
The controversial video was originally uploaded by the animal worker, who remains unnamed, at the Luoyuanwan Sea World in Fuzhou, Fujian province.
The 50-acre aquarium in south-eastern China is known for hosting a variety of animal performances with dolphins, beluga whales and even sharks, according to its social media page.
The clip became viral after being shared by an animal welfare account on Chinese Twitter-like Weibo on Tuesday. The post accused the aquarium worker of mistreating the beluga whales.
The post read: ‘[He] often flaunts himself standing on top of the beluga whales by posting videos on a live-streaming platform.
‘[The videos] have extremely terrible social impact and [we] hope relevant departments pay close attention.’
The shared clip has sparked outrage as ten of thousands of web call to boycott the animal performances in zoos and aquariums.
One commenter wrote: ‘Reject animal performance! This is imprisonment and cruelty towards animals!’
Another one replied: ‘Whales and dolphins are supposed to live in the sea but are now confined in small prisons. They are forced to perform and work for aquariums every day. It’s all cruelty and torture!’
The aquarium worker is believed to have deleted the original clip and similar videos from his social media page following the controversy.
But he has previously posted other footage in which he is seen training and feeding the giant mammals.
A spokeswoman from the animal park claimed that such interactions between the animals and trainers are part of the performance.
She told Pear Video: ‘We do have performances with dolphins and beluga whales. They are interactive.
‘[Trainers] might dance with them under the water or stand on top of them to demonstrate the strength [of the animals].
‘We are a legit company and our animal keeping is legal,’ the staff member added.
MailOnline has contacted the aquarium for further comments.
The escalating coronavirus pandemic has shed a light on the issue of animal welfare in China as officials scramble to establish laws to protect wildlife.
Similar events in relation to mistreatment towards zoo animals have recently been exposed by web users in the wake of the health crisis.
A heart-wrenching video showing a captive tiger appearing to be depressed as it walked in circles non-stop inside a tiny enclosure at a Beijing zoo was revealed in April.
Another appalling video shows Chinese visitors using fishing poles to feed captive tigers in a so-called ‘interactive programme’ offered by a wildlife zoo in south-eastern China’s Yunnan province.