Whale Shark dies at South Korean Aquarium

One of two whale sharks at Aqua Planet Jeju dies

By Kim Doo Young, The Jeju Weekly,
Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Hanhwa Aqua Planet Jeju, located on the east side of the island at Seongsan, Seogwipo City, is facing questions after one of two whale sharks in its facility suddenly died. According to the Aqua Planet Jeju and the Jeju Coast Guard, the whale shark died on Aug. 18, just 40 days after it was brought to the aquarium.

Jeju National University’s school of veterinary medicine said it would conduct an autopsy. It added that the second Aqua Planet whale shark is in good health. This is the second death of an animal on exhibit at the aquarium. A manta ray died on Aug. 9.

The two whale sharks in question were caught off the shore at Aewol, Jeju City, in fixed shore nets set by the Jeju residents on July 7 and 8. The sharks, were 4 meters in length and weighing between 600 and 700 kilograms.

There were suspicions raised about how the whale sharks were acquired, with allegations of animal smuggling from China given the “coincidence” of the sharks being caught just days before the aquarium’s opening on July 14. The Jeju Coast Guard investigated some days after the opening, but found no evidence of wrongdoing.

Whale sharks are designated as an endangered animal species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Animal rights organizations such as the Korean Animals Protection Society and dolphin rights protection organization Hot Pink Dolphins have insisted that Aqua Planet is “abusing” the whale shark for profit — and that it should be released.

For its part, spokespeople for Hanhwa have insisted that the two whale sharks were legally donated by Aewol residents. Even if Hanhwa was to release the animals back into the wild, they said, there is still the danger of the animals encountering nets or other hazards, and that the aquarium is the safest place for them to live.

Regarding the recent death of one of the two whale sharks, a statement by Hot Pink Dolphins argued that the whale shark’s death was likely caused by stress and that the other animal should be released in order to prevent it too from dying.

UPDATE – August 22.

Surviving Aqua Planet Jeju whale shark to be set free

Hanhwa Aqua Planet Jeju announced today that it will release its surviving whale shark after consultation with Jeju Special Self-Governing Provincial officials, agencies and marine biologists.

The whale shark, which is 4.5 meters in length and weighs 700 kilograms, will be released into the ocean off Jeju’s northeast coast. A representative for Aqua Planet Jeju aquarium apologised to Jeju citizens and visitors for the first whale shark’s death.

Source: The Jeju Weekly



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