Taoyuan-based aquarium Xpark yesterday said it has adopted the highest standards to care for marine life, after reports by individuals and civic groups alleging mistreatment of the creatures.
The aquarium, the first overseas branch of Japanese theme park operator Yokohama Hakkeijima Inc, opened in Jhongli District (中壢) on Aug. 7.
Since its opening, a number of netizens have reported problems such as an injured stingray, jellyfish entangled together or their tentacles cut, or fish bumping into tank walls, the Taiwan Animal Equality Association (TAEA) wrote on Facebook over the past few days.
Photo: Hsu Cho-hsun, Taipei Times
Association researcher Sera Lim (林婷憶), who on Aug. 13 visited the aquarium for a survey, said she saw a stingray with a wound on the corner of its mouth, which should have been isolated for treatment.
The penguin exhibition is problematic, as different species are enclosed in the same space, disregarding their places of origin where temperatures vary, she said.
The aquarium’s spatial design is focused on creating an impressive spectacle, instead of catering to the animals’ needs, she said, adding that the association hopes people would stop visiting the aquarium and that the practice of confining animals for exhibition would soon be terminated.
Xpark in a statement rejected allegations of animal abuse, saying it has adopted rigorous standards to attend to the animals.
As the aquarium has more than 10,000 marine animals, there might be occasional injuries or some creatures might still be adapting to their new environment, it said, adding that proper medical treatment has been applied.
Many accusations against Xpark are false and reflect people’s lack of understanding about marine life, it said, citing as an example jellyfish losing tentacles, which it said is a natural phenomenon.
The aquarium would improve its public communication and promotion of ocean life, it said, but added that it would take legal action against false accusations.
Promoting marine conservation should not be an excuse for confining animals, Kuroshio Ocean Education Foundation director Chang Hui-chun (張卉君) said, advising people to learn about animals in natural environments through means with the least disturbance.
While the Executive Yuan is encouraging people to learn more about the ocean through its “Salute to the Sea” policy, the city government’s introduction of an aquarium is a “regressive policy,” she added.
It might be hard to ask the aquarium to alter its facilities now, but authorities should keep track of its inhabitants’ living conditions and deaths, she said.
The Taoyuan Animal Protection Office yesterday said that it conducts regular inspections of the facility, with the most recent one on Wednesday, and did not find any illegal activities.
As the aquarium opened only two months ago, it might need time to make adjustments, including how marine life adapt to their new environment, the office said.
The Ocean Conservation Administration said it has no power over the aquarium’s operations, except to review applications for importing marine creatures.
It has not received new applications from the aquarium to import more creatures, it added.
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