Tag Archive | aquariums

Seal Tale


Fur seals Cordova and Issac are two of the New England Aquarium's seven northern fur seals that resude at it's New Balance Foundation Marine Mammal Center exhibit along with two female California sea lions.

It was a cold Sunday Morning in Boston on February 28, 2010 and my mother took me to the New England Aquarium so that I could do a “Trainer for a Morning” program. In this program, I could work along with the trainers during training sessions with fur seals and harbor seals. I was very excitedabout spending time with the animals and looking forward to every moment with them. When my mother and I arrived at the main entrance, it was crowded with both couples and families who came to the aquarium to see all of the animals that lived there. As I was waiting for the trainer to take me in for the daily session, I could not stop thinking about some of the activities I was going to do that involved animals. As I waited for my session to begin, It was just beginning to dawn on me on why marine mammal training is very important.

New England Aquarium's New Balance Foundation Marine Mammal Center.

It was about 9:02 AM and a male trainer has arrived at the main entrance to take me in for the daily session. The trainer’s name was Justin and I had met him before almost two years early.At the time, I was doing a job shadow for my high school sophomore economics class. Seeing Justin again was great and was looking forward to spending the morning with him and the seals. So, after meeting Justin in the main entrance, we went into the aquarium. There, we met up with another seal trainer named Patty and off we went into the New Balance Foundation Marine Mammal Center, anopen-air exhibit that housed fur seals (as of 2011, this exhibit now includes two juvenile female California sea lions who were rescued off the coast of California).
When I got to the Marine Mammal Center, I was just very impressed with how well-complex it was. The pool was partially shallow, and yet, it was large and wide enough for up to 10 seals to call it home. As I walked on to wooden platform, two fur seals named Issac and Cordova swam near the platform like they were being very curious about us. Cordova would constantly yell like a man as if she was saying hello to everyone. Erin told me a story about the time when Cordova was yelling so loud,that someone thought there was a crime going on the Aquarium so, they called the police. When the police did arrive, however, it turned out that there was no crime going on and it was just Cordova’s vocals that triggered the false alarm. Her Seattle Aquarium-born friend Issac, on the other hand, was a quiet and yet,a mischievous seal who is known for his fine-tune behaviors such as a head shake, his purr-like vocalizations, and sticking his tongue-out to the crowd. Cordova and Issac were two of five northern fur seals to call the New England Aquarium home.

Cordova is a very estudious fur seal when it comes to doing interactions and training sessions.

The same time I was introduced to the seals was when the training session began. The session consisted of trainers interacting with the fur seals by doing various activities with them that were all based on their different needs. Just watching the seals interact with their trainers was such a sight to see. Erin had me use a target pole for Cordova. From the moment she got on the platform after Erin gave her the signal, Cordova mastered aiming at the target not just one, but twice. It was like she knew her stuff. For example, if you had the target on your hands, Cordova will come to you right away. She was pretty studious for a seal who loves to vocal. Issac, however was not quite sure about the target. But, after only a few seconds, he simply placed his nose on the target and got it right. I guess it took a little bit of encouragement to find his inner studious-side. Soon after that, Cordova gave me a kiss on the nose that lasted for an estimated ten seconds. That was such a fun session with the fur seals.The session lasted for about an hour.

This chart is a record of how much food should the seals eat depending on their health, age, gender, and weight. Each diet plan is set up to meet each animal's need.

Following my training session with Cordova and Issac, Justin brought me into the fish room where I learned about how the diets are set up for the animals. For example, the harbor seals will feed on mainly herring and caplin while the fur seals will feed on a combination of both fish and squid. Each diet was set up to meet each animal’s needs depending on their health, age, and gender. After talking a little bit about the food preparations, Justin asked me if I would like to add some vitamins into the gills of the fish and I did not hesitate to say“yes”. This is because in all of my years I have gotten to work with animals, I have had a chance at preparing diets for them. So, I got myself some gloves and started to add the vitamins into the gills of the fish. The vitamins are used to held the animals get their nutrients while keeping them healthy at the same time. It took an hour to fill all the fish with vitamins; but, it was all worth it because part of a trainer’s job is to prepare the diets for all of their animals.

After doing some food prep for the seals, Patty called me over to make some enrichment toys for the seals. Enrichment is the act of providing stimulating and challenging environments, toys, and activities for animals in zoological facilities. This is very critical to the animal’s well-being as having their own right to both food and medical care. It also promotes animals to perform their natural behaviors that they would normally do out in the wild like diving and exploring while it keeps them both mentally and physically fit. The seal enrichment was made of soft, long ribbons, fish, ice, water, and pet toys. I would decorate the pet toys by stringing up the large ribbons into each hole. For some of the toys, I would just simply tie a single knot at the sides. While I was making toys for the seals, I was beginning to picture how the seals would react to the toys the next time the seals have another enrichment session with the trainers. I would think that maybe the seals might be curious about them before starting to play around with them. After I got the last toy all decorated with ribbons, Patty called me over to the freezer where the toys that were already made were stored for the next session. That was when, we made our way to the harbor seal, which was outside of the building.

Smoke just loved the toys I had to ffer to her. She just had a ball with them.

As we made our way to the harbor seal exhibit for the play session, I could not stop thinking about the reactions the harbor seals would have the moment they first see the toys. The session was consisted of two attempts. The first attempted was to do the play session through the exhibit’s glass windows. This is in which the window to the seal exhibit and would allow us to drop the frozen enrichment into the water without having to sit on the platform. However, after about five minutes and with the large of visitors watching on, the seals showed no interest in coming towards the window to play with the enrichment. So, we pulled it out and decided to perform our second attempt, which was to do it within the exhibit. As I laid down on a soft black mat, I tossed the enrichment into the water in hopes the harbor seals would show signs of being interested. Then, all of the sudden, Amelia, one of Aquarium’s seven harbor seals came close to the enrichment and began to play with it. For several minutes, Amelia would attempt to get the fish out of the icy block by sticking her teeth to ice as if she was trying to grab on. Then, an elderly seal named Smoke began to play with the ice block. As the ice began to melt, she and Amelia would attempt to grab on to the enrichment and by the time it melted away, both females had a few bites of the fish and no longer showed any interest in the enrichment. After the play session was over, Erin brought over a male harbor seal named Ragaee for a quick hands-on session. I got the chance to feel his wet fur by rubbing his stomach. His fur felt so wet and slimy. Then, I leaned down once more to get a nice big kiss from Ragaee. It was such a nice kiss on the face that, I jokingly exclaimed that I would never want to wash my face again because the moment to me, was very special. Soon after that, our my session with the seals was over and believe me, it was the best morning ever. I felt like that I had a great experience with all of the animals at the Aquarium on that cold February morning. It was such a great day at the aquarium and I would love to visit again.

In the end, when I think of that day, I begin to think about how and why working with marine mammals in captivity is very important. First and foremost, one of the main goals of marine mammal training is to promote animal husbandry. This concept focuses on medical methods and practices that are used to monitor the health of captive animals. Trainers have structured routines that would allowthem to maintain animal health through observation and medical examination. Secondly, another purpose for marine mammal training is to promote physical and mental stimulation. When animals do physical training sessions for at lest three times a day, they are getting exercise out of these sessions and it keeps them both in fit and healthy throughout their lives. Finally, one of the main reasons why marine mammal training is important is because researchers are just beginning to understand both the needs and capabilities of marine mammals and other marine life we all share this planet with. By observing and communicating with them, both researchers and trainers alike are understanding the secret lives of these amazing animals by understanding how they think and adapt in this ever changing world. Marine mammal training has it’s benefits for the animals and the people who learn and care about them each day that may help those who study them find a way to one day protect their wild counterparts for generations to come.

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Making More than Just a Memory: An Article by the AMMPA (Alliance for Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums)


Each year, millions of children, such as Katrina Simpkins of Indiana, patronize zoos and aquariums like Clearwater Marine Aquarium. (Photo by Katrina Simpkins).

National Poll Finds Accredited Marine Parks, Aquariums and Zoos Best Places for Children to Learn About, Connect with Marine Mammals. Children have a natural curiosity about dolphins, whales and other marine mammals. The best way for parents to encourage this interest – and to inspire a lifelong passion for wildlife conservation – is to log kids off the computer and visit an accredited marine park, aquarium or zoo, where learning best happens. That’s according to a new national public opinion poll that says the public strongly believes seeing and experiencing live animals is the best way for children to learn about marine mammals. Released today by the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums, the survey of more than 1,000 adults found that97 percent of people agree that marine life parks, aquariums and zoos are important because they educate children about marine mammals–animals that children might not have the opportunity to see in the wild.

Ninety-four percent of those polled agree that children are more likely to be concerned about animals if they learn about them at marine life parks, aquariums and zoos, and that visiting these facilities can inspire conservation action that can help marine mammals and their ocean environments. The poll, conducted by Harris Interactive®, also found that 94 percent of people agree that zoological parks and aquariums offer valuable information about the importance of oceans, bodies of water and the animals that live there. Parks provide important interactions that are a critical first step in promoting kids to take action to help animals and their habitats,”said Marilee Menard, executive director of the Alliance.

Additionally, the poll found that 89 percent agree that children learn more about marine mammals at an aquarium or zoo than in a school classroom, and 88 percent agree that you can learn about animals at marine parks in a way that can’t be replicated by watching film or TV programs. Some 91 percent agree that seeing a marine mammal at these facilities fosters a connection to the animal. When children – and adults – see and experience the excitement of being close to marine mammals such as whales, dolphins, and sea lions, it resonates in ways that even the most vividly illustrated book or video cannot. It is an emotionally enriching experience that fosters a sense of caring for these animals and their ocean environments,” said Menard, whose Alliance membership represents 48 accredited facilities that account for the greatest body of experience and knowledge about marine mammal care and husbandry in the world.
Other findings from the new public attitude survey include:

• 40 percent of Americans (about 125 million people) have visited a marine park, aquarium or zoo in the last 12 months, including 56 percent of households with children (about 20 million households).

• 94 percent believe the people who care for the animals at marine life parks,aquariums and zoos are committed to the welfare of the animals.

• 7 percent (ages 18-24) would be interested in swimming with dolphins.

• 93 percent believe that many of the successes to save endangered or declining species are at least in part a result of work done in marine life parks, aquariums and zoos.
90 percent agree that species in the wild benefit when their biology and physiology is studied in marine life parks, aquariums and zoos.

•90 percent believe that interacting with dolphins in a marine life park, aquarium or zoo offers people a deeper understanding and appreciation of this mammal.

We pride ourselves on providing an educational and enjoyable experience for families,” Menard said. “Professionals at Alliance member institutions work every day to inspire guests of all ages to share their commitment to marine mammals, the need to protect them in the wild and to conserve ocean habitats.”

Methodology: 

Harris Interactive® conducted the study online on behalf of the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums between Aug. 29 and Sept. 6, 2011 among a nationally representative quantitative survey of 1,011 U.S. adults ages 18 and over. The data were weighted where necessary to be representative of the total U.S. adult population on the basis of age, sex, race/ethnicity, education,region and household income. The propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

The Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums is an international association of marine life parks, aquariums, zoos, research facilities, and professional organizations dedicated to the highest standards of care for marine mammals and to their conservation in the wild through public education, scientific study, and wildlife presentations.

A very special thanks to Lindsey Lucenta for providing this article which was written by the Alliance for Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums. Thanks again Lindsey.

~Jenna~

Marine Mammal Husbandry


The purpose of animal husbandry on marine mammals including cetaceans, like Panama is to monitor their health and ensure that they are healthy.

Animal husbandry incorporates all methods and practices used to monitor the health of all marine mammals in human care. Trainers, animal care staff, and veterinarians employ structured routines to monitor and maintain the health of all animals in their care through daily medical examinations and constant observation. All work with the animals is then recorded on computers and charts for both easy reference and long-term tracking. Husbandry procedures include exhaling, obtaining fecal and urine samples, blood testing, and ultrasound and the goal of these procedures is to ensure the animal remains healthy in a zoological setting.

1. Exhaling

Naku shows us how exhaling can help monitor a whale or dolphin's respiratory health.

An exhale is when a trainer asks a whale or dolphin to give them a strong blow from their blowhole in order to obtain blow samples that will later be tested by veterinarians to determine their respiratory health.

2. Hydration (cetaceans)

Hydration helps prevents cetaceans from developing kidney problems. (photo by the Kohala Center of Hawaii)

Hydration is a procedure done to keep a whale or dolphin hydrated by carefully inserting a clean tube down the animal’s throat. This is because unlike humans, dolphins do not have a gag reflex which can make the procedure pretty easy for the trainers. A funnel that contains fresh water is connected to the tube.

3. Blood Testing

Many captive marine mammals are trained to voluntary present their tail flukes (cetaceans and manatees) and flippers (seals, walruses, and sea lions) for blood sampling. (Photo by SeaWorld)

One of the best ways to determine animal health is by taking a blood sample from animals in human care. When blood is taken, a marine mammal is asked to voluntary present either it’s tail fluke, or flipper. In cetaceans, the animal lays in a vertical position with pressure being applied to the tail flukes. When the blood is being drawn, it’s drawn the from the major vessel running along the underside of the fluke. In most seals, and sea lions, the blood is drawn from their flippers while remaining still. The blood sample is then taken to a lab where it would be tested to determine illness.

4. Urine/Fecal Sample

Urine and fecal samples are used to determine eating pattern and hormone levels.(photo is public domain).

In order to collect urine or fecal samples, the trainer must first clean the animal’s urogenital opening with an antiseptic gauze pad before placing the cup into a position that would be easy to catch either urine or fecal and apply pressure on the bladder or anus carefully with the palm of the trainer’s hand. The animal then fills the cub.  The samples are then used to determine an animals’s eating pattern (feces), or to determine if an animal is either pregnant or ready to breed.

5. Milking

Milk samples from nursing animal mothers can help veterinarians check for hormone changes and study ratios of protein, fat, and carbohydrates. (Photo by Zooborns.com).

Milking is when the mammary glands of a marine mammal is attached to a breast pump by having the animal voluntary lay in a haul-out position. Although the samples are mainly used for research purposes, they are also used to hand-rear baby animals that have been either rejected by their mothers or their mothers had died shortly after birth.

6. Sunscreening

During her rehabilitation, Winter was given sunscreen lotion to prevent her from getting sunburn as a result of the hot Florida sun. (Screenshot from 'Winter: The Dolphin That Could" DVD).

In the wild, dolphins that spend most of their time resting on the surface of the water would be more likely to develop serious skin problems from years of exposure to the sun. In zoological facilities however, cetaceans receive sunscreen that can be applied to their melon and other external parts of the body to prevent sunburns. At some facilities like SeaWorld, a sprinkler is provided to keep the skins of marine mammals cool damped during the hottest days of the year.

7. Semen Collection

It takes months of training to successfully train cetaceans such as Ulises the killer whale for semen collection. (Photo is public domain).

Semen collecting is the method of obtaining semen from a breeding male for the purposes of research and to one day artificially inseminate breeding females without ever having to transfer the males to other facilities for breeding loans. During this procedure, when the male sees a small plastic bag, he will voluntary roll over and present his penis before admitting semen samples to the trainer.

8. Body Measuring

Every two to four weeks, marine mammals such as manatees, are always measured to determine their body length and height. (Photo by ABC Animal Training.)

The most common husbandry practice at marine zoological facilities, body measuring is a procedure that measures the physical growth of an animal. The animal may lay either vertical or dorsal-up while trainers or keepers use a measuring tape to measure their length and girth. In cetaceans, some of these measurements may include the dorsal fin, tail flukes, and pectoral fins while sea lions and seals may only have to include the flippers.

9. Weighting by Slide Out

Slide outs are very helpful when it comes to recording an animal's weight. (Photo is public domain).

Slide outs are used to weight an animal using a flat, low-laying electronic scale. This procedure requires the animal to slide on top of the scale and lay still for just a few seconds while it’s being weighted. The scale shows how much an animal weights and can determine if that weight is healthy or not.

10. Tooth Care

A harbor seal is getting it's teeth cleaned by it's trainer during a husbandry session. (Photo is public domain).

Dental procedures are very important when it comes to caring for marine mammals in captivity. About several times a day, trainers swap, and brush the teeth of marine mammals to prevent possible tooth infections that would otherwise cause life-threatening illnesses to the animals. The teeth are then flushed with water after the teeth are bushed. However, if a tooth is infected, then a veterinarian will be required to perform an x-ray exam to determine how bad the infection is before deciding on where to go from there (a tooth cannot be surgically amputated unless it’s proven to be seriously infected and it’s at all means to save an animal’s life).

11. Eye Dropping

eye drops are used to treat and prevent eye problems in pinnipeds. (Photo by SeaWorld).

In pinnipeds such as sea lions and seals, eye problems are very common. While their eyes have evolved for seeing well underwater, it’s not known why they develop eye problem such as blindness, and cataract. In human care however, such problems can either be treated or prevented with the use of eye drops. A small drop of this medicine is carefully inserted into the pupil and allow it to sit and the medicine will absorb into the entire eye after several minutes.

12. Ultrasound

Many animals such as killer whales and dolphins are trained to hold still and relax during ultrasound exams. (Photo by SeaWorld).

Another valuable tool in animal husbandry is the use of an ultrasound. This procedure allows veterinarians to scan the animals for internal anatomy images. It’s also very useful to establish norms for individual animals  so that if some sort of change does occur, such as possible illness, treatment can occur instantly. Ultrasound is also used to detect pregnancy and monitor fetal health as well as determine the optimum time for mating females.

No training session nor husbandry procedure is ever forced.

It must be reminded that none of these husbandry procedures are forced and are all voluntary by the animals themselves. Each and everyone of the animals that are in human care are trained with the same tools along with other behaviors.

I hope you all find this list of husbandry procedures to be a helpful resource.

~Jenna~

Help Wanted: Looking for Zoo and Aquarium Professionals to Interview


Any one who works with animals interested in doing an interview? (photo of trainer scuba diving with a dolphin at SeaWorld San Diego is by SeaWorld).

Hey everyone,
I’m looking for any zoo or aquarium professional who I can interview for my next blog entry which will focus on them and their career. If you or someone you know works as a zoo or aquarium professional and would loved to interviewed for “The Winter Dolphin Chronicles”, feel free to email me at Animaltrainer104@aol.com and I will come up with a series of questions. Professions can include:
*Animal Training
*Zookeeping
*Marine Biology
*Zoology
* Veterinary Science
*Wildlife Rehabilitation
*Animal Care and Husbandry
*Wildlife Education
Keep in mind that all questions that I’ll ask will all focus on your field and your take on the animals as you know them and how you are inspiring others to love and care about animals. I will greatly take interview more than one person and all I just is need out of this interview is just being yourself and opening up about the profession while inspiring others at the same time.

Thank you all for taking your time and have a great evening everyone,
~Jenna~

How to Feed and Enrich an Otter


A captive Asian small-clawed otter catches a live fish in it's exhibit at SeaWorld San Antonio on August 11th, 2010. Photo was taken by yours truly.

One time, when I went to camp at SeaWorld in San Antonio, Texas, I went into the lake where the ski stadium is located with my camp group to collected some freshwater fish that would help feed the small-clawed otters in their exhibit. As a group, we would round the fish up by walking behind them before putting a net in the water to catch them.  The fish, which are taken alive from the lake, are then taken into the animal care department before they are placed into the otter exhibit to serve as both food and enrichment to the otters. This is because in the wild, hunt food by using their vibrissae to detect movements of prey in the water. They use their forepaws to locate and capture items rather than their mouth. To recreate that behavior, animal care staff at SeaWorld San Antonio acutally catches fish from lake where the ski stadium is located and bring the live fish to animal care where they are prepared to be brought to otter exhibit. For the otters on exhibit, the live fish in their exhibit is not only a form of a feeding session performed by their caretakers, but, it is also an enrichment session for them too. However, if a trainer is training them, it’s a good idea to start with a large enrichment item first because then, they would be much more responsive to training afterwards.

This small-clawed otter gives a recyclable object for it's trainer during a show at SeaWorld San Antonio on August 12th, 2010.

Bring Back The Waterworks at SeaWorld


Waterworks help stimulate the whales' everyday needs as well as, develop strong relationships with their trainers.

Since Dawn’s death last February, OSHA (U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has fined SeaWorld for “willful endangerment” of trainers who work with killer whales in SeaWorld’s animal collection by performing waterworks tasks with them. Despite being the first death in SeaWorld’s 4 decade history (though there had been similar accidents with killer whales at other marine life facilities), OSHA now wants the trainers to no longer perform waterworks with their killer whales at all. OSHA’s citations on SeaWorld is completely unfounded and reports that accompanies these citations contain numerous errors such as details and events that led up to the accident. This also includes the number of witnesses as well.  OSHA itself has failed to cite and regulate other risky professions too. I believe for OSHA, citing SeaWorld over Dawn’s death was simply a way to seek the media-grabbing political ploy by a government agency in an attempt to justify its existence. To make matters worst, OSHA staffers virtually have no experience working with captive animals.  This has been noted back with a 2006 inspection on SeaWorld San Diego following an accident that took place  there when OSHA admitted to it’s lack of expertise to properly assess the working conditions there.

Why is Waterworks important for the killer whales?

Trainers virtually know the risks of working with such large animals like killer whales. However, this is what keeps them going with what they love.

To maintain close relationships with their killer whales, SeaWorld trainers spent the majority of their work time( beside hourly observation, food prep, and regular dry-work training and husbandry sessions) being in the water with them. These in-water interactions not only helped build strong trusts between trainer and whale, but it also stimulated them. Another benefit from waterworks is that some medical examinations require both trainers and vets to have very close contact with the animals in order to take good care of them and ensure that they are healthy. Yet, upon the citation, OSHA has chosen to alter both SeaWorld operating and animal care practices in the name of “employment safety”. As a result, without close contact of any kind, the whales will suffer as indicated by the sudden death of a middle-aged killer whale named Kalina in October 2010. Many believe that this death could have been prevented if SeaWorld staff were allowed to monitor animal health based on their own animal care guidelines, which is now, under OSHA’s de-facto control. If a judge were to rule in OSHA’s favor during an up-coming hearing on the matter this month, then SeaWorld would not be the only zoological facility to suffer from this citation, other zoos and aquariums with large animals like elephants, big cats, apes, and and rhinos would suffer with SeaWorld. This would also include veterinarians, who could be prevented from properly examining domesticated animals such as cats and dogs and sick stranded marine animals such as dolphins, and sea turtles as a precedent.

Without the trainers performing in the water with the whales, attendance at SeaWorld will drop. This will not only be detrimental to the local economies, but also place financial restrictions on SeaWorld's research and rescue operations.

What do SeaWorld and other zoo and aquarium patrons, like myself want to see come out of this month’s OSHA hearing on SeaWorld….

1) Have OSHA’s citation of SeaWorld for “willful endangerment” be reversed, overturned, or overruled.

2) Pass federal legislation aimed at reforming OSHA by restricting OSHA’s ability to regulate professions that involve contact with animals.

3) Establish a waver system, in which employees whose jobs are altered by OSHA rulings could voluntarily opt-out of the ruling and continue to perform their jobs under pre-OSHA ruling conditions.

4) Launch a federal inquiry and investigation into OSHA, OSHA director David Michaels, and OSHA investigators involved in the SeaWorld citation for potential abuse of power, by singling out SeaWorld with excessive penalties.

If you want to see trainers back in the water with their killer whales:

Please sign the petition at: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/let-sea-world-trainers-back-in-the-water-with-killer-whales/ (Big thanks to Alberto Branado for creating this petiton)

Sample letter to write to lawmakers, ambassadors, and the president:http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=10150259144778039

Learn more about benefits of waterworks with killer whales at SeaWorld through Stephanie Tracey’s interesting essay on this topic (great essay Stephanie!):  http://www.facebook.com/topic.php?uid=63617892564&topic=15980

The Importance of Zoos and Aquariums (a 2010 article from the Orlando Sentinel)


SeaWorld is more than just a marine park......It does it part, like many other zoological facilities to help wildlife and educate the public about them.

In response to the recent lawsuit PETA (hate that group by the way!) has filed against SeaWorld over the keeping of killer whales in their care, I have decided to post a one-year-old article that Ocean Embassy vice President, Mark Simmons wrote for the Orlando Sentinel about the true inner workings of zoological facilities regarding their role in saving wildlife while educating others in the process. I have read it several times and it’s amazing to see how zoo professionals are doing their part to make a difference in our world today and you should read it and apperciate the great works that facilities like SeaWorld, Clearwater Marine Aquarium, and others do on a daily basis. Enjoy and you are welcome for sharing this article:

“Look at good Works in Rating Captivity’s Ethics”

By Mark Simmons, Vice President  of Ocean Embassy on March 12th, 2010

The recent tragedy at SeaWorld, beyond the grieving of a community over a whale trainer’s death, has stimulated discussion about captivity.

Anti-captivity groups have called for the release of Tilikum and the end of SeaWorld. They have likened the most advanced zoological facility in the world with prison and named SeaWorld, and in effect all U.S.-permitted and fully accredited zoological institutions, as money- hungry profit-mongers.

However, monetary interest in captive animals is not exclusive to zoological parks. The groups calling for Tilikum’s release raise money on the same public display of animals. Their business model is well-refined: They raise more in donations with the least cost of marketing on captive dolphin and whale issues than any other single issue.

Is profit a dirty word when it comes to conservation? Studies on environmental movements have linked conservation to prosperity. They reveal that we concern ourselves with conservation only after our basic needs are met, i.e. when we are prosperous. As individuals, we intuitively know this to be true.

Zoological institutions are no different than individuals in regard to the relationship between conservation and prosperity. As a professional community, zoos and aquariums have funded more than 3,700 conservation projects in more than 100 countries and spend nearly $70 million each year on conservation initiatives, according to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. This is possible not only because they possess the knowledge, but because they have the financial capacity.

In contrast, anti-captivity nonprofit organizations don’t spend enough on helping animals or their ecosystems. They do not pay taxes on the money they raise, and a large percentage of their proceeds go to salaries, advertising and lobbying activities.

Who is the more responsible corporate citizen?

In 1998, Ocean Futures Society, the Humane Society of the United States and Earth Island Institute attempted to release Keiko (of Free Willy notoriety) to the wild. During this release campaign, they raised more than $20 million in tax-free donations and produced several documentary films.

As concluded in a scientific report issued by U.S. and Greenland authorities, the Keiko release project was a failure. After only a few weeks on his own, he sought out human contact and exhibited nuisance behavior following boats and looking for handouts. Keiko died of pneumonia in 2003. The experiment was perhaps the most compelling case of animal exploitation in history.

The argument against captivity seeks to isolate zoos and aquariums from all other forms of animal use in society. The importance of animals in our society and the plight of quality zoological facilities cannot be so easily reduced to catch phrases like “prison” or “life in a bathtub.” Trainers are not wardens, and the animals are provided the best care in mental, physical, social and environmental stimulation. They are given the highest quality of nutrition and medical care and a clean, hazard-free environment.

Conversely, animals in the wild face ever-increasing threats from toxins, depleted food supply and a degrading habitat. They are forced to travel farther and farther to find sustenance.

At least 19 species have been saved from absolute extinction by zoological institutions, including black-footed ferrets and California condors. In many tangible ways, SeaWorld and other leading zoological parks are modern-day arks.

It has been said that awareness and the emotional motivation to act are the greatest conservation challenges of our time. About 175 million people visit zoos and aquariums in the United States every year. When the day comes that the oceans are clean, food sources are abundant and society can act as one in the preservation of wildlife and their ecosystems, then maybe we will not need the constant reminder or the sanctuary that zoos provide.

Until then, there are few organizations — for profit or not — that reach as many people and animals as this important social institution.

Link to Original Article: http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2010-03-12/news/os-ed-mark-simmons-captivity-ethics-0312120100311_1_captivity-zoos-and-aquariums-keiko

Animals in human care, whether if it's a killer whale, a lion, or lemur, are ambassadors to their wild counterparts.