Whale sharks at Sentosa IR? Bad move, say activists

Resorts World promises 'top-class' care as animal welfare groups raise issue
Ang Yiying, Straits Times 29 Aug 08;

NATURE and animal welfare groups in Singapore have banded together again to oppose the move by the integrated resort on Sentosa to bring in whale sharks for its oceanarium.

The Singapore Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), the Nature Society of Singapore and the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) had objected publicly to the plan when Resorts World at Sentosa unveiled it in 2006.

With International Whale Shark Day being observed tomorrow, the groups said it was timely to again raise awareness of the issue.

SPCA executive officer Deirdre Moss said the society was concerned about the welfare of the whale shark as some have died in captivity overseas.

She said: 'When we're talking about the biggest fish in the ocean, one has to ask the question, 'Who is benefiting? Is it the animal or is it the human?' The animal's welfare will definitely be compromised.'

Whale sharks can grow to 12m long and possibly up to 20m.

Acres executive director Louis Ng said: 'They shouldn't gamble on the lives of whale sharks.'

The spokesman for Resorts World at Sentosa, Ms Krist Boo, said the whale sharks in the Marine Life Park 'will be loved and will receive top-class care'.

She added that the park's mission was to 'inspire guests of all ages to appreciate the world's aquatic biodiversity and promote conservation action'.

However, Nature Society of Singapore president Shawn Lum said there was no wide consensus that keeping these whale sharks in captivity was good conservation strategy.

There has been no sign of official disapproval of Resorts World's move.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), noting that these gentle giants are listed under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Flora and Fauna, said this meant their import and export had to be controlled.

AVA spokesman Goh Shih Yong said Singapore would abide by the convention and require Resorts World to provide good care.

Resorts World launched a marine life fund this year and said shark's fin would not be available on its menu, except to high-rollers.

Plea to set them free
Today Online 29 Aug 08;

AS THE world prepares to mark International Whale Shark Day tomorrow, three groups here have once again expressed their opposition to having these creatures as “exhibits”.

The upcoming Resorts World at Sentosa (RWS) had announced in late 2006 that it would have whale sharks as one of the attractions for its Marine Life Park.

“We hope that Resorts World will reconsider their decision to keep whale sharks in captivity,” said Mr Louis Ng, executive director of the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres), one of the three groups which issued a joint press statement to mark the event. The other two were the Singapore Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and Nature Society (Singapore).

“They have already taken the progressive step of leaving sharks’ fin off their menu ... To truly contribute to marine conservations, let us focus on keeping the whale sharks safe in the wild,” Mr Ng said.

The SPCA noted that two whale sharks died within five months of each other at the Georgia Aquarium Atlanta last year. The deaths, they said, prove that “whale sharks are not meant for confinement to glass walls”.

When contacted by Today, a RWS spokeswoman pointed out that the autopsies on the two whale sharks “linked their deaths to the use of a chemical pesticide used to treat tank parasites”.

“The animals did not die because they were in captivity,” said Ms Krist Boo, the company’s vice-president of communications. She gave the assurance that the acquisition of animals “will be done in full compliance with international standards”.

“The whale sharks in the Marine Life Park will be loved and they will receive top-class care: The finest veterinary care, technology and food,” saidMs Boo, who added that the launch this year of RWS’ Marine Life Fund underlined its commitment to conservation.

The fate of whale sharks are not the only concern of some groups here. Last month, international dolphin charity Marine Connection raised concerns that dolphins might be imported into Singapore after 12 Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins were captured near Solomon Islands and housed in sea pens for export to marine parks.

While RWS told Today it had no plans to import dolphins, Underwater World did not reply to Today’s email queries.

In 2004, Acres uncovered evidence that some of Underwater World’s pink dolphins were caught in the wild but the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority ruled it was legal for the park to keep them.

'No whale sharks'
Ang Yiying, Straits Times 28 Aug 08;

NATURE and animal welfare groups in Singapore have banded together again to oppose the move by the integrated resort on Sentosa to bring in whale sharks for its oceanarium.

The Singapore Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), the Nature Society of Singapore and the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) objected publicly to the plan when Resorts World at Sentosa unveiled it in 2006.

With International Whale Shark Day being observed on Saturday, the groups said it was timely to create awareness of the issue again.

SPCA executive officer Deirdre Moss said the society was concerned about the welfare of the whale shark as some have died in captivity overseas.

She said: 'When we're talking about the biggest fish in the ocean, one has to ask the question, 'Who is benefiting? Is it the animal or is it the human?' The animal's welfare will definitely be compromised.'

Whale sharks can grow to 12m long and possibly up to 20m.

More links

Whale shark at Sentosa: thin edge of the wedge
on the wild shores of singapore blog

SUFFERING, NOT SMILING: The Truth About Captive Dolphins
on the Acres website

Sentosa IR: Captive dolphins to be used for spa therapy
Dolphins at your doorstep? Cara van Miriah, Electric New Paper 22 Dec 07;
Plans underway for dolphins to be released from oceanarium daily to swim to posh water bungalows on stilts

Dolphins at the Sentosa Integrated Resort
Dolphin export, Solomon Star 14 Apr 08;

Dolphin therapy a dangerous fad?
CDNN - CYBER DIVER News Network 23 Dec 07;

Nature groups against oceanarium at Sentosa
Letter from SPCA, NSS, Acres Straits Times Forum 21 Oct 06

No critical need to keep whales prisoners
Letter from Dudley Au, Straits Times Forum 28 Oct 06

Rethink idea of having whale sharks in Sentosa lagoon
Letter from Thomas Paulraj Thamboo, Straits Times Forum 19 Oct 06

Sea Shepherds on the Whale Sharks at Sentosa IR
Letter from Grant W. Pereira Asian Education Advisor Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, unpublished letter to the media

6 comments:

  1. Attractions that bring in animals into captive can be a positive thing. These creatures are studied and it is so much safer than allowing them to be in the wild. True that it may lose it's natural predatory instincts but at least we know they're in safe hands and free from accidents as compared to being left in the wild.

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  2. a cartoon I did on the whale shark issue...
    http://seijieiga.blogspot.com/2008/08/whale-shark-in-singapore.html

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  3. it only is a positive move when conservation and education efforts are engaged. But having a swim with a whale shark while sounds like a great education/life one-of-a-kind experience, one cannot help but question the commercial agenda behind it. Let's face it, the bid alongside to bring in the whale shark was seen from a commercial angle. And to avoid incurring the wrath of the population, throw in lip-service of starting a conservation fund.

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  4. Hi,

    I've been to the Osaka Aquarium and the Okinawa Aquarium, and both have been able to keep their whale sharks in good health.

    If we can take care of the whale sharks well, and it has been shown that it can be done, i wonder what all the fuss is about.

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  5. hi, granted you been to Osaka and the whale sharks seem fine. I guess if you were kept in a window display along TANGS shopping mall (perhaps we can double the area size), it would seem fine too? Sorry if I sound harsh but while I think some animals can be kept, I feel this giant which is meant for the vast deep ocean should not be confined to a space swimming in circles.

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  6. it is really sad seeing all these creatures been kept in captivity and seeing them perform the same thing over and over again. it just makes me wonder... are they really happy? do they feel stressed? tired? bored? i do not even see the staff preparing external programs for the mammals alone. furthermore they are 'forced' to perform in a way because that's the only way for them to get food to eat. it is really disheartening. it is also sad to see that all these marine parks or oceanariums purely operate cause of MONEY. its like money is their first piority and the animal's welfare comes second. then again the animal's welfare is important to them because why? if the animals die and the stars of the show is gone they lose MONEY. in the end it's still about money. and them saying 'save the marinelife!' is just merely an image they want to portray to the public.

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