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Conservationists slam aquarium's manner of release of whale shark

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium was criticized yesterday by an animal protection organization for the manner of its release of a whale shark on July 10 that could have killed the shark.

The Environment & Animal Society of Taiwan (EAST) said that the staff of the aquarium chose a location that was too close to the shore to release the shark, so the shark was stranded twice before finally being able to go out to sea.

“The whale shark suffered from multiple injuries from the first two attempts of release,” EAST Chief Executive Officer Chu Tseng-hung said.

“What the aquarium did was not release the whale shark,” Chu said, “the aquarium actually abandoned the shark.”

“The aquarium did not train the shark on how to live in the sea before releasing it, since the shark had been living in the aquarium for eight years,” said Chu.

Chu said the aquarium waited so long to release the whale shark because it had been waiting for a new baby whale shark to arrive. The aquarium finally decided to free the shark after not being able to keep the shark anymore.

“Since the aquarium did not put a GPS tracker on the shark,” Chu said, “no one knows if the shark returned back to the sea safely and survived.”

“The aquarium did not have any back-up plans when the whale shark was stranded on the shore,” Chu said, “and from the video documenting the release process, the staff even attempted to move the whale shark, which weighed 3,600 kilograms, with their hands.”

“Staff ignored the injuries the whale shark suffered from the failed attempt to release, and dragged the shark to the sea when the shark had stopped struggling, with its stomach facing toward the sky,” said Chu.

Chu said that all aquariums in Taiwan should stop raising whale sharks in order to avoid similar incidents from happening again.

Wang Wei-hsien, the head of the National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium, said that the release process was evaluated carefully and if the shark does not survive, he definitely feels sorry.

Wang showed up at the press conference held by EAST yesterday. He was criticized for his speech about feeling sorry about the uncertainty of whether the shark survives or not.

Wang said that even though the release process was carefully evaluated, there were still parts that couldn't be properly handled.

“I can only say that all experts in the world still do not know much about whale sharks, even after years of research,” said Wang.

July 23, 2013    klwd752@
I loved coming to the museum just to see the whale shark, but it was getting too big for the tank and was suffering damage to its tailfin from dragging it against the concrete side of the tank. I hope that it survives release, but it seems a long shot given its injuries.
July 23, 2013    skier_rich@
The photo shows that they have NO idea what they're doing.
July 23, 2013    viaboston@
This is so disgustingly incompetent, what the heck is going on with the Taiwanese, how can they be so stupid and cruel, as well as incompetent...wow...so sad. This guy Wang should be fired immediately, what an ignoramus.
July 24, 2013    thorn9200@
They had NO CLUE as how to handle this terrible situation!! They're idiots!!
July 24, 2013    edann77@
Let me guess... they chose the location that had the most convenient parking for staff.
July 25, 2013    harley_dude_jp@
At least they didn't fin and eat it.
July 25, 2013    cascuba@
It's easy for idiots to criticize ....
July 25, 2013    deecfc67@
It's also easy for non-idiots to criticize.....
July 31, 2013    mackbutter@
The criticism must be proportionate to the development of Taiwan. They simply do not have the knowledge, skill or even sympathy for these creatures and handling them. The whole idea of treating animals with kindness and empathy is a relatively new idea for Chinese. This is the land that eats dogs, kills bears, sharks, whales ...etc... for voodoo, superstitious medicine. If you allow a baby to drink milk from a glass you should not complain if that milk ends up on the floor. If we allow Chinese to have these facilities we have to expect this mishandling. We should not judge the Taiwanese too harshly. They are still new to this.
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A members of the National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium pours water into a whale shark's mouth to prevent it from suffering anoxaemia, in Pintung on July 10. The aquarium was criticized yesterday by an animal protection organization for the manner of its release of the whale shark, which could have resulted in the animal's death. (CNA)

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