UPDATE: The seal pups are safe, thanks to great Care2 members like you! Go here to check out the full story.
Two six-month-old harp seals that were slated for death on September 15 at the Aquarium des Iles in Quebec have been temporarily spared thanks to public outcry from around the world.
The two pups, Zak and Mika, were taken from the wild this spring by Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO-MPO) and accepted by the aquarium for display for the summer. Aquarium officials shamelessly took them, even though they knew the pups would not be released again at the end of the season and would be destroyed in the name of ‘research.’
The practice has been going on for decades with releases at the end of the season, but for some unknown reason, the DFO is suddenly arguing 25 years later that the pups could not only contaminate wild seals, but other wild animals.
“Was the risk present before and we were just lucky that nothing happened? I can’t answer that. But now that we know the risks, we no longer have the authority to release them,” said aquarium president Jean-Michel Leblanc in a Radio-Canada interview Friday. “The solution is like when you have a pet you no longer want to keep, in order to limit the suffering, you have it euthanized.”
After hearing about their plight from an employee at the aquarium who reached out to organizations for help, the Island Wildlife Natural Care Centre (IWNCC) in Salt Spring Island, B.C., stepped up to help and set up a Care2 petition campaigning for their release.
“I never heard of a situation quite like this. I don’t think anybody has. This is why we have 130,000 signatures on a petition to save the seals. People were outraged,” IWNCC founder Jeff Lederman told the Globe and Mail.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) also stepped in and offered to donate the funds and facilities to get Zak and Mika back into the wild, which would involve moving them to the Atlantic Wildlife Institute in New Brunswick for rehabilitation before releasing them into the Bay of Fundy, but the aquarium apparently has a better idea.
The aquarium issued a statement on Facebook that Zak and Mika would not be destroyed, but, well, they want a lot of your money to help take care of them before putting them on an international flight to the Océanopolis aquarium in Brest, France:
We’re aware that a petition was recently launched on the web seeking to find a solution to this situation. To ensure the welfare of Zak and Mika, the Aquarium des Iles two seals, until they can be transported to a new aquarium, we are urgently seeking financial support from all the people who signed the petition in order to achieve the funding goal of $ 73,000. This amount corresponds to the daily needs for food, employees caring for the seals and their diet, infrastructure utilization costs, essential elements to ensure the animal’s well-being until their transfer. The web site http://aquariumdesiles.ca/ will allow participating to this fundraising, which needs to be completed by September 21th.
No one is impressed.
“It feels a little like they’re taking the seals hostage – like a ransom note: ‘Now that you’re upset, give us some money or we’ll kill them,’” said Michelle Cliffe, a spokesperson for IFAW told the Montreal Gazette. “We think it’s the responsibility of an aquarium to have a plan and the finances to care for animals prior to taking on those animals.”
It’s still unclear what will happen to Zak and Mika, but their story has brought more issues with keeping marine mammals in captivity to light, on top of the outrage over the cruelty at Marineland. IFAW and others are urging the DFO to stop taking wild animals and to enact legislation that will protect marine mammals in captivity.
Please help keep the pressure on by signing and sharing the petition calling for Zak and Mika’s release, with or without the $73,000.
Photo credit: Thinkstock