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Taiwan aquarium abandons captive whale shark in the sea - Strands twice

25/07/2013 09:49:56

The whale shark stranded twice shortly after it was abandonned into the sea. Photo courtesy of Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan

Aquarium must not be allowed to acquire a new whale shark
July 2013. Taiwan's National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium 'released' a whale shark into the wild that it had held in captivity for 8 years. The Whale shark was released with no preparation for life in the oceans, and was not tagged to enable scientists to track the animal in an effort to help it survive.

The animal had been kept in a small tank where it spent its life swimming slowly in one direction around the tank. The shark was released into the sea much too close to the shore; on release the shark continued to swim in a similar pattern to its pre-release and shortly afterwards stranded on the shoreline, not once, but twice. The shark was eventually re-floated on the first occasion thanks to efforts of the coast guard, local fishermen and conservation workers, but it is not known what happened to the animal after that. The aquarium cliamed that the animal was last seen swimming out to sea, but those who had helped rescue the animal stated that it was already badly injured, and was last seen being towed on the end of a rope out to sea by a boat - They believe it had no chance of surviving, if it wasn't already dead.

Not a release, but an abandoning
The method that was used for this so-called release appears to be that the over-riding priority was to get rid of the whale shark, with no thought given to its wellbeing.

The Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan (EAST) have been urging the aquarium to release the captive whale shark and not to bring in new ones.

The whale sharks tail shows extensive damage as a result of being held in an entirely unsuitable tank for 8 years. Photo courtesy of Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan.

The whale sharks tail shows extensive damage as a result of being held in an entirely unsuitable tank for 8 years. Photo courtesy of Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan.

The aquarium at one stage had three whale sharks in captivity. One died 2007 and it appears that another was released with no thought of any scientific follow up or wellbeing, as the shark had no rehabilitation and was not tagged. The only remaining whale shark had grown to some 6 metres long, patently way too big for its tank where it was forced to swim in small circles, with its tail suffering damage as it continually hit the walls of the enclosure.

The sharks were kept in a tank just 33 metres long, 22 metres wide and about 8 to 12 metres in deep. Whale sharks live for up to 100 years in the wild, but data from an aquarium in Japan showed that whale sharks kept in captivity lived for an average of just 16 months.

New captive whale shark?
The aquarium hopes to introduce a new small whale shark into the tank, but the conservation groups urged the government not to approve any proposal to introduce any new whale sharks.

Read the comments about this article and leave your own comment

whale shark release

i hate to see and creature in captivaty but a very large animal such as the whale shark should never be put in a tank. It was great to see that it was going to be released but it needed to be done by people with experience of shark release. the release was carried out in a very amateur way. I hope the shark survived but I doubt that it did. I also hope that they dont take another shark into captivaty, they should have learned from this mistake.

Posted by: dave ball | 26 Sep 2013 09:32:38

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