The last two remaining beluga whales (Aurora and her calf Qila) held at the Vancouver Aquarium recently died. The aquarium—which claims to be a conservation facility—said that the deaths may have been caused by animal-rights activists who, despite no evidence confirming the aquarium’s accusation, believe potentially poisoned the whales. On the heels of this tragedy, scientist and environmental activist Jeff Matthews argues that the Vancouver Aquarium is not in fact a conservation facility. Matthews poses the question, “Are these the actions one expects from a world-class science-based conservation charity?,” then follows with, “Or are they the public relations tactics more typical of people with something to hide?” The activist points out that more than 40 deaths of whales and dolphins have occurred at the aquarium. “It is increasingly difficult to reconcile the aquarium’s carefully crafted public image as world-leaders in whale and dolphin care with their mounting death toll,” he states. The aquarium plans to import five new beluga whales from United States-based SeaWorld to fill their empty beluga tank. Matthews points out that the aquarium has not taken a stance against the planned Kinder Morgan pipeline, which is expected to threaten the whale population along the coast—despite claims from aquarium executives that they are a conservation facility. Using this conflicting information, Matthews concludes, “Science and conservation are secondary to selling tickets to whale shows.” Organizations that exploit marine and other animals for entertainment continue to receive backlash from animal-activists and the general public alike. Last month, Marineland in Ontario was charged with five counts of animal cruelty by the Ontario SPCA, while CEO Joel Manby of SeaWorld—where several animals have perished in recent years—announced last week that he would cut 320 jobs at the park in an effort to offset plummeting profits from decreased attendance.
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