Thursday, June 14, 2007

Something smells fishy

Whale Shark at the Georgia Aquarium

Since I went to the Georgia Aquarium in January, two whale sharks and a beluga whale have died in captivity. Correction, the beluga whale actually died the day I was there. I am trying not to take their passing personally.

The whale shark is the largest fish in the world, and travels vast distances. I am not sure which shark is in this picture, or whether this particular one is alive or dead, but this whole thing is creeping me out. The Georgia Aquarium rescued the beluga whale that died, from an amusement park in Mexico that had the whale living in a tank next to a roller coaster. They tried to save that animal from almost certain death and he didn't make it. The whale sharks on the other hand were taken from the wild. Or, as the aquarium states, "had been bought from fishermen in Taiwan and would have ended up as someones dinner." In fact, just this month, the aquarium received two more whale sharks from Taiwan, i.e. the wild. They don't even know what killed the first one and they getting more. This just seems crazy to me.

I know that keeping animals of any kind in captivity is controversial, and I can see very clearly the arguments on both sides. It would be very hypocritical of me to say that no animals should be kept in cages, or tanks, based on my own visits to zoos and aquariums. But wouldn't the aquarium want to find out what killed these fish before placing a new order of money makers? I think part of the problem I am having is that Georgia Aquarium provides almost no information about their exhibits. Aside from naming the fish in the tanks, it is purely an aquarium for show. They do put on a great show, but you cannot go there and learn anything. I can think of many examples of this, but my favorite was the "educational" movie they showed about protecting nature. During the blatant "Finding Nemo" ripoff they had cartoon fish telling kids to help save the oceans. This is all fine and great, but they did not give one, and I do mean one, example of how they could do that. Isn't the point of aquariums, and ultimately keeping any animal in captivity, so that you can educate the public about them? We saw kids looking into the piranha tank in aw. So cool right, piranhas? Isn't that the time to have something on the wall for them, or their parents, to read about the fish, so they can know more about them than just what they see in movies? Instead, some kids were just screaming about how those fish could eat them.

I know, I am totally ranting at this point, but I am so bugged by this. It just seems that if these animals are going to die in captivity, so you and I can go pay $24 to watch them swim around a tank not nearly big enough for them, the aquarium should be doing their part and educating the public. Is that too much to ask?

1 comment:

Houseboy said...

Amen. That aquarium is a seriously wasted oppportunity. Nice rant.