Tag Archive | Association for Zoos and Aquariums

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.

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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.

When “The Cove” Lies


Nami, is a nearly forty-year-old Atlantic bottlenose dolphin who lives at the National Aquarium in Baltimore. This facility is one of fourty-four marine life facilities in the United States and Mainland Europe that does NOT take any dolphins out of drive fisheries.

In March 2010, the documentary The Cove won an Oscar for “Best Documentary”. This film focuses on the slaughter of dolphins off the coast of Taiji, Japan.  While the killing of dolphins in Japan is pretty much real, the reasons behind it is completely deceptive. This is because, the filmmakers of the movie claim that most marine life facilities get their dolphins from Japan when truthfully, they do NOT! Below is a two part commentary that focuses on the inaccuracy statements made by dolphin extremist Ric O’Barry  film producer Fisher Stevens, and director, Louie Psihoyos.

  • Since the making of these videos, it has been alleged by activist groups that 15 dolphins were imported into Turkey from Japan, and several more into two former Soviet ruled countries in eastern Europe.
  • Sea Shepherd’s “Cove Guardians” have cited that NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) has granted SeaWorld San Diego a permit to import a young male pilot whale named Argo.  Keep in mind that Argo stranded as a neonate and alone in Moriya Seashore of Katsuura City, Japan on January 10th, 2004. He was NOT collected from any drive fishery or otherwise the permit would have been denied.
  • In 2010, Ocean World, a dolphin facility in the Dominican Republic, filed a lawsuit against Ric O’Barry after being defamed during a CNN interview.
  • As of 2011 only one drive-fishery animal resides in the US. It’s a female false killer whale named Kina. She was originally imported by the US Marine Mammal Navy Program from Ocean Park in Hong Kong in 1987. She was later sent to the Hawaiian Institute of Marine Biology  in 2000.
  • An attempt by one US aquarium to acquire false killer whales from a 1993 drive fishery was blocked by the US National Marine Fisheries as they considered such operations to be inhumane. This eventually led to an effective ban on imports of drive fishery animals into the US.
However, there are several facts that remain………….
  • Asia and the Middle East are the two active markets for Japanese dolphins. However, the main markets are in Japan, China, Korea, and Taiwan.
  • The Japanese drive fisheries pre-date aquariums by almost 350 years. It began in the year 1606 for the purposes of pest control and human consumption. However, archaeological records show that the drive fisheries go back as early as 8-9,000 years ago during prehistoric times.
  • Even if eastern marine life facilities stop acquiring dolphins from drive fisheries, Japanese fishermen would still kill dolphins for the purposes of both pest-control and human consumption.
  • Less than 8% of all dolphins caught in drive fisheries are sold to aquariums. The rest are killed in the hands of Japanese fishermen.
  • Ric O’Barry was not the first person to expose Japan’s drive fishery practices. It was first revealed by National Geographic in 1979 and three years later by filmmaker and dolphin conservation advocate Hardy Jones and the Cousteau family in a 1982 TV documentary.
  • No wild dolphin has been collected from the wild for a US facility since 1989 . It’s been three decades sine any dolphin has been imported from a drive fishery to a facility in Western Europe. The reason why many western marine life facilities have not obtain collection permits since the 1980’s is due to the success of captive breeding programs.
  • Both the Alliance for Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums (AMMPA) and the Association for Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) prohibit any of their accredited facilities from taking  any animal from drive fisheries. Accredited  marine zoological facilities in the western hemisphere from Alaska to Argentina do not support, fund, nor acquire dolphins from the Japanese drive fisheries.
  • Much like the evolution of marine wildlife conservation awareness in the United States, only education and a changing values towards cetaceans, including dolphins, will bring an end to a three-century-old inhumane cultural hunt.