Visiting Birmingham National Aquarium with the BSAVA International Reception…

Funky Jellyfish at Birmingham Aquarium at BSAVA Congress 2013

Today’s Diary Entry is sponsored by Supreme Science Selective Rabbit Food

This evening as I am studying in Slovakia I was invited to attend the BSAVA International Delegates reception at the Birmingham National Aquarium. Now I’ve been meaning to visit this aquarium for the past two years however have never managed to get around to it so was really looking forward to this evenings event (and hoping it included a chance to look around). On entering I noticed it was not what I expected as instead of being a set of rooms, there is a walkway through what are themed zones based on areas of the world. In addition something else that was really interesting was instead of just having an underwater tunnel with viewing above the tunnel enclosed a walkway allowing the watching of fish underneath so you are completely surrounded by them.

Birmingham National Aquarium Themed Walkthroughs

I liked the way that this was set out, and with diseases of fish this semester I am coming to understand a lot more about the different species, and their adaptations which I find has made previously beautiful creatures also very interesting. Obviously pretty things relax the mind, however I now know for example that flatfish swim on either their left or right side (yes they actually have a preference). It is slightly worrying as when looking at the fish pushing its head out the water I did wonder if its something to do with that species, if its something it has learned to do, or if it is related to the environment?

Vet student looking at fish at Birmingham National AquariumOne of the aims of Birmingham National Aquarium is the conservation of the sea turtles, and this is the first time I’ve come across this and actually seen an alive leatherback sea turtle. In addition to this they have a 4D cinema showing a Turtle conservation film with special effects including wind, water and special moving seats. They recently had success in breeding and hatching 12 new baby sea turtles who are now around a year old…

Breeding Sea Turtles - Birmingham National Aquarium Conservation ProgrammeTo talk now about something else that I find fascinating I want to mention jellyfish, these are amazing animals with the ability to live even without a brain, heart or bones. There were a lot of different jellyfish here so I will follow-up later a diary entry just on jellyfish, for now I will just leave you with this picture…

Funky Jellyfish at Birmingham Aquarium at BSAVA Congress 2013

Canada lacks animal welfare laws protecting marine mammals

Most people believe that it is third world countries that lack stringent and effective animal welfare laws, you can imagine my suprise when I found out Canada made this list. When you think of animal welfare you assume that all animals are covered, however in Canada Marine Mammals (cetaceans such as Whales, Dolphins and also the shark family) are not. A little further digging has brought up several cases where marine mammals have not perhaps been treated in the best manner however thats beyond this diary entry.

Earlier in the week I tweeted about how the USA was permitting a new aquarium opening in Toronto to hunt sand tiger sharks of the coast of South Carolina. The sand tiger shark is listed as endangered on the IUCN redlist. The 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act provides protection for captive marine mammals in the USA, and also the hunting of marine mammals from the sea under a permit scheme. The hunt and capture of the sand tiger sharks is under a Marine Mammal Permit. I am against the taking of any animal from the wild for commercial or entertainment enterprises, in this case the aquarium have sourced 3 from another aquarium so it is beyond me why they want more. In addition the method used for the capture of these animals causes devastation

Anyways, since that tweet I have come across the fact that Canada has no legislation for marine mammals. I believe it is a irresponsible decision for the USA to grant this whilst there is no legislation protecting them in Canada where they’ll be transported to. In addition the track record of the ability of Canada to regulate and protect these animals is dubious at best. In 1998 Zoocheck commissioned a team of marine mammal experts to inspect Marineland in Niagara Falls in Canada who produced a report describing conditions as “appalling”. The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals whilst having the power to lay charges, there is a lack of enforcable standards against which conditions can be compared to in order to bring charges. In addition a lack of specialised knowledge of these marine mammals has also been highlighted as preventing OSPCA taking action.

It is a well acknowledged fact that the life expectancy of marine mammals is significantly reduced in captivity. In the UK the legislation is so strict that there are no dolphins in captivity that I am aware of. Many other countries legislate for Marine Mammals including Chile who banned the display, capture, import and export completely in 2005.

I realise that marine mammals post a mystery to many people, however by visiting them in aquariums are you really learning? It is certainly possible to teach as much, if not more through talks with videos as it is to learn by seeing these majestic creatures in environments made out of concrete. If you really wish to learn do a scuba course (BSAC in the UK offer great discounts for students!), and get out to see these animals in their natural environment.

The is a petition online here against the import of these Endangered sharks.