March 12, 2009

Conservationists Protest Casino’s Acquisition Of Whale Sharks

A Singapore casino developer is planning to import whale sharks for its planned aquarium, resulting in several local and international animal welfare groups launching an online campaign opposing the plans, the AFP reported.

The groups have called on the public to "voice their opinions" on the campaign's website on Wednesday concerning the casino's acquisition of the whale sharks.

The casino will feature a Marine Life Park set to become the biggest seawater aquarium in the world, holding some 700,000 fish in 20 million gallons of water, according to Resorts World at Sentosa, the builder of the casino.

However, organizations including the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, along with five others have come out in opposition over having whale sharks in the facility.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources lists whale sharks, which are considered the largest sharks, as "vulnerable".

"The union said in a statement: "No man-made environment, no matter how large, could accommodate the needs of a whale shark."

The sharks are capable of diving up to 3,234 feet and migrate over 8,060 miles. The group claims there is plenty of evidence showing the species does poorly in captivity.

In the United States, two whale sharks died within five months of each other in a "state-of-the-art" aquarium.

Jaki Teo, the campaign's coordinator, told AFP the site received more than 100 emails overnight.

Teo said they are hoping government organizations will support the campaign since it concerns Singapore's international image.

"It's not just a tourist attraction, people will come and say 'what's a whale shark doing in Singapore?'" she said.

Proponents of the oceanarium, including Resorts World at Sentosa, argue that the threat the animals faced "makes the role of aquariums in their conservation all the more crucial".

Resorts World said The Marine Life Park's goal is to "help protect the species' wild population from disappearing" and it has worked closely with marine experts to give the animals "top-class care."

The casino project is on track for a phased opening from early 2010 and will also feature hotels and a Universal Studios theme park.


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