Just months ago in November 2016, Qila, the first beluga born in a Canadian aquarium and Vancouver Aquarium’s long term resident, died at the age of 21. Shortly after, her 29-year-old mother, Aurora passed away. While the cause of death for this mother and daughter is unclear, a life in captivity is hardly what these animals deserved. According to the Aquarium, beluga whales can live up to 30 years in the wild whereas other sources say they can live as long as 70 years. If the latter is true, Qila and Aurora hardly had long lives.
And this isn’t the first time eyebrows have been raised at Vancouver Aquarium. In 2015, Dr. Ingrid Visser, Founder of and Principal Scientist for the Orca Research Trust, observed a young whale at the Vancouver Aquarium, known as Chester with wounds attributed to the behavior of self-mutilation.
With the suspicious death of their residents and questionable activities leaving animal lovers in outrage (such as a program where you can swim with captive belugas) surrounding the Vancouver Aquarium, their captivity program has been thrown into the spotlight. And it looks like this debate has lead to some positive news for the aquarium’s cetaceans. March 9, 2017, the Vancouver Park Board unanimously decided to “have staff look into amending the Parks Control bylaw to prohibit the importation and display of live whales, dolphins, and porpoises.” Effectively, this would lead to a ban on keeping whales in the facility.
According to the Vancouver Sun, the decision follows the Vancouver Aquarium’s announcement to bring in new belugas before phasing out its cetacean research program and the display of beluga whales by 2029. Staff has until May 2017 to investigate and report back on how best to implement the amendment.
Observing animals in captivity may make us aware of their existence and inspire awe and wonder, but it can also, perhaps unconsciously, cement in our minds that this type of captivity is okay. Further, it enforces the idea that it’s perfectly normal to house these animals in concrete boxes that attempt to mimic their wild homes.
If you don’t agree that marine animals should be confined in a concrete pool and robbed of their freedom, the best thing you can do is boycott all facilities that hold animals captive. By visiting an aquarium and paying for a ticket, you are paying to keep wild animals in captivity.
Share this article to spread this important message. Wild animals belong in the wild.
Image source: Lobo/Wikimedia Commons