Join our zoo community

Miami Seaquarium and why I criticize zoos

Discussion in 'General Zoo Discussion' started by J-K, 18 Apr 2022.

  1. J-K

    J-K Member

    Joined:
    10 Nov 2020
    Posts:
    14
    Location:
    Californa
    I understand that this title may be controversial, but please read this with an open mind. Cetacean captivity is a controversial subject among the zoo community and many people on this site support cetacean captivity; however, I think it's still important for people in the zoo community to challenge their views. I'm also not against all zoos and aquariums - I love going to zoos and aquariums, but I want them to change for the better.

    Last June, the USDA conducted an investigation into Miami Seaquarium and noted "serious animal welfare violations, which included feeding rotten fish to the animals, dolphins dying, and Lolita’s tank crumbling," according to local news. Keep in mind, that this investigation was conducted by an independent government organization.
    USDA inspectors back at Miami Seaquarium with final report expected this week
    Here's the link to the actual report:
    DocumentCloud

    In addition, just recently during a dolphin show, one of the animals became very aggressive to a trainer, injuring the woman and sending her to the hospital.
    Dolphin attacks trainer and drags her under water during show at controversial Miami Seaquarium, video shows

    Although the Miami Seaquarium denied this incident being an aggressive act, a former veterinarian at the aquarium stated, "I have been told by previous veterinarians and staff that this animal had rammed another trainer in the abdomen...When dolphins become aggressive like this, there's always some underlying thing."

    Interestingly, despite the USDA's scathing inspection, the Miami Seaquarium is still accredited by American Humane, AMMPA, and IMATA. It honestly surprised me that the USDA has higher welfare standards than these organizations. To be honest though, since American Humane covered up animal mistreatment on movie sets, I'm not too surprised.

    I know that there's plenty of bias in this post since it's coming from a person who doesn't support cetacean captivity, but the USDA inspection was shocking even for me. The reason why I'm posting this is because I think it's important for people (whether they support cetacean captivity or not) to criticize poor welfare when poor welfare is present so that zoos and aquariums can continue to evolve.

    A couple decades ago, most zoos used bullhooks and negative reinforcement (beatings) to train elephants. Many people dismissed activists and other critics, claiming that the treatment towards elephants was fine and that these radical critics didn't know what they were talking about.
    Looking back today, I think most people in the community can agree that this treatment towards elephants was really bad. Fortunately, most zoos don't treat elephants like circus animals anymore, but the pressure from zoo critics and animal activists played a major role in changing how zoos treat animals.

    Unfortunately, I see a similar attitude in zoos today. I understand that many criticisms of zoos are inaccurate or misleading, but this doesn't mean zoos and aquariums should disregard every criticism regarding animal welfare. When the U.S. government banned Seaworld from capturing wild orcas, the company responded by asking its visitors to petition the government. A few years ago, the Georgia Aquarium tried to import wild beluga whales from Russia (not as rescue). Fortunately, this attempt failed due to mounting public pressure and legal issues, but it shows that zoos and aquariums are far from perfect.

    Zoos and aquariums have improved a lot since their inception, but zoos and aquariums still have plenty of issues regarding welfare to address. Zoos and aquariums are not perfectly ethical, and we shouldn't act like they are.

    I'm not a person who believes that all zoos are bad and that no animal thrives in captivity. Nor am I a person who believes that zoos are completely benevolent and do not ever mistreat their animals. I love going to zoos and I'm grateful for how much they've changed over the years. I also criticize zoos a lot - not because I hate zoos, but because I love zoos and want them to improve. Zoos are my passion, but over the years, I've been torn because while I love zoos, I think they have issues that get dismissed instead of addressed. I posted about the Miami Seaquarium because I think it's a great example of a facility that deserves criticism. I'm saying all of this because without criticism, zoos will grow much more slowly. Unfortunately, I've seen a lot of people dismiss or defend zoos in instances where blatant animal mistreatment occurs, and I wish this would change.

    I'm not against all zoos, and I love visiting my local zoo. But I wish more people in the zoo community wouldn't dismiss valid criticism against zoos and aquariums. I really don't mean to offend anyone, and I'm in no way stating that every person is like this. In fact, many people in the zoo community (and in this site) do criticize zoos and aquariums when criticism is needed. But, I'm writing this post because this topic has been bugging me for a while and I think it's important for more people to criticize what they love so that zoos can change for the better. Otherwise, the public will continue to lose faith in zoos.
     
    Birdsage, nrg2001 and Salt Merchant like this.
  2. Lafone

    Lafone Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    6 Dec 2021
    Posts:
    1,765
    Location:
    UK
    It’s possible to be an animal welfare enthusiast and a zoo enthusiast in my opinion.

    Where there is mistreatment and that is identified properly ( vs random people saying x doesn’t have enough space for example) it should be stamped out.

    Not sure what’s controversial about that to be honest.

    I don’t get the defence of properly identified mistreatment or the ‘you don’t understand’ sort of posts that follow its reports.

    On the internet discussion often becomes polarised and confrontational people confuse disagreement with lack of comprehension. The internet is often an echo chamber and people get very upset when the echo isn’t theirs.

    There are animal keeping practices I disagree with (private breeding of big cats for photo shows, animal focused circuses, large Cetacean keeping, any collection that fakes a protection mission and keeps animals for money making performances). To express this view in action I just follow the line that my money and visitor support should go to the zoos / parks that don’t do these things.

    I believe that it is possible to be keen on zoos and recognise the need for high standards and the debates on these subjects are too often one sided or too extreme. It’s not ‘all zoos are bad’ to say some zoo practice is bad but people do see red as some anti zoo people are extremists. Extreme views brook no discussion. It’s one of the things that make them really boring.
     
  3. Salt Merchant

    Salt Merchant Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    4 Sep 2020
    Posts:
    972
    Location:
    Jakarta
    I used to have the same mindset in my first year in this site, when I defended Bandung Zoo for their improvements (Which are actually good) and dismisses critism of Indonesian zoos and aquariums. The more times I've been here and also the more times I watched contents about those zoos and aquariums, my mindset changes. A lot of Indonesian zoos is far from perfect (There's only eight which I considered decent, while I found one to be good), with newer zoos and aquariums here acted more like an "Instagramabble" attractions and an huge studio for "animal loving" celebrities to film their YouTube videos or do photoshoots than a place of conservation.

    Since this thread talks about cetacean, I'm honestly kinda in between. I'm ok with instituions with cetaceans as long as they're being breed and not permanent (To be released back into the seas), also not being used for those "educational" shows. For the elephants, this practice sadly still done in Indonesian zoos, even by one of the most reputable zoos like Taman Safari (In which they also shout and yelled to the elephants for visitors to take a photo with).
     
  4. Fallax

    Fallax Well-Known Member 5+ year member

    Joined:
    5 Mar 2017
    Posts:
    2,368
    Location:
    Wales
    I think it is very important for people to be critical of any zoological institution which mistreats its animals or keeps them in less than favourable conditions, however I think criticism should be primarily constructive otherwise discussion goes absolutely nowhere. In general, I believe that most criticism on ZooChat is healthy discussion and constructive.

    The reason it might seem like a lot of people here dismiss a lot of zoo criticism from outside of ZooChat is because a large amount of it is unfaithful or by organisations such as Born Free or IDA who have no idea what they are talking about and spread misinformation that pertains to their anti-captivity ideology. On ZooChat itself, most criticism of zoos is constructive and done with good faith and in support of zoos as a concept and necessary part of understanding animals and conserving them.
     
  5. SwampDonkey

    SwampDonkey In the Swamp Premium Member 5+ year member

    Joined:
    12 Jan 2017
    Posts:
    2,106
    Location:
    .
    It should not be controversial, as zoo fans and conservationists we should be encouraged to point out the failings of any institution, to push them to do better.

    Aquariums in particular have gotten better, but still have a long, long ways to go. I don't think the average aquarium attendee realizes how much of their collections still require wild catch. Again, they have made large strides in that regard over the last 10-15 years, but they have a long way to go.

    As for cetaceans in captivity....I love seeing them, but I hesitate to quickly agree with keeping them unless they cannot be released into the wild due to injury, etc. IOW, animals that were stranded, injured, etc. make great additions, but I am not sure about breeding them. And let us realize that cetaceans bred in captivity are not being done so for releasing or even for a captive hedge on extinction. Is there any record of a captive bred cetaceans being released into the wild?

    MSQ has some major issues, and I don't know if the new owners have it in them to actually do what should be done, both in regards to management and in expenses to improve the facility. It is entirely possible the operation is closed and the land redeveloped - it is prime real estate as it is.
     
  6. Bengal Tiger

    Bengal Tiger Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    21 Aug 2021
    Posts:
    1,652
    Location:
    Scatman's World
    What are the main issues with MSQ (I know it has to do with cetaceans, but I'm not sure what precisely is the issue)? Either way, criticism is a healthy thing, and as @Mayki & @SwampDonkey pointed out, it is important for zoos to acknowledge their mistakes and issues. You can't really do anything about an issue if you fail to recognize it in the first place. Either way, I think you bring up many good points.
     
  7. Lafone

    Lafone Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    6 Dec 2021
    Posts:
    1,765
    Location:
    UK
    The first post has a link to a comprehensive report on specific issues.
     
    Bengal Tiger likes this.
  8. Great Argus

    Great Argus Well-Known Member 5+ year member

    Joined:
    30 Mar 2018
    Posts:
    5,442
    Location:
    California
    Did you read the first half of the post or any of the links?

     
    TinoPup, Bengal Tiger and IndianRhino like this.
  9. Great Argus

    Great Argus Well-Known Member 5+ year member

    Joined:
    30 Mar 2018
    Posts:
    5,442
    Location:
    California
    At this point Miami Seaquarium is in quite a bit of trouble as far as animal welfare is concerned. Too many preventable injuries and outright negligence. The criticism they are currently receiving is justified, and it sounds like some of their animal staff need to be fired and replaced. Something not mentioned thus far here is the USDA has revoked their exhibitors license in regards to Tokita. The Seaquarium cannot use her in shows nor is she allowed to be exhibited.

    Unfortunately the facilities that do not uphold standards become the target of animal rights groups and anti-captivity groups, who then blanket statement the situation to all zoos instead of focusing on the places where husbandry and animal care are suffering. Where are the animal rights groups targeting Joe Exotic's place? It's a terrible situation but the groups are largely ignoring it. But they'll go sue Bronx Zoo to the highest level over the rights of an elephant, an elephant that repeatedly proved she could not be trusted with direct contact to other elephants. Her care is top notch, there is no need for Bronx to be suffering the negative press and shelling out money for defense in court.
    This is why I have difficulty agreeing with any statements regarding animal welfare when groups like PETA, IDA, and the like are quoted or otherwise involved. They are consistently targeting the wrong places over lies or going too far. Occasionally they do actually go for poor welfare, Miami Seaquarium being a case. However, while the criticism leveled at the facility is largely fair and justified per the USDA inspection, they again are overshooting the mark. A lot of them are calling for Tokita to be moved to a sanctuary. There is no sanctuary. Tokita is old and has a history of poor health, probably due to conditions she's lived in. Moving her any considerable distance would stand a high risk of killing her. The best option in terms of her welfare would be to move her to SeaWorld Orlando. Though frankly such a move would be last resort in my opinion due to the criticism shifting to SeaWorld along with Tokita. Especially if she were to die during the move or shortly thereafter. Moving her at all is going to be risky if attempted, and I hope there will be sensible voices involved besides the Seaquarium staff that are ignoring veterinarian and USDA opinions should it come down to moving the orca.
     
  10. Bengal Tiger

    Bengal Tiger Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    21 Aug 2021
    Posts:
    1,652
    Location:
    Scatman's World
    Apparently I read the entire post except for the top :oops: I know this isn't helping my reputation, but this was an innocent mistake, I actually read the post.
     
    BenFoxster likes this.
  11. IndianRhino

    IndianRhino Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    8 Jun 2020
    Posts:
    1,917
    Location:
    San Diego
    This is an extremely easy question to answer on your own. Like others pointed out you could’ve taken a moment to read what was posted earlier in the thread or even a simple Google search would’ve yielded sufficient results as this is a well documented issue (especially by ARA groups). I highly suggest you (and all zoochatters) take some time to read up on things before you decide to wade into discussions/arguments as this isn’t the first time you have posted in threads with little to no prior knowledge on the topic or couldn’t care enough to take some time prior to posting to research about the topic at hand.

    As for MSQ, I agree that they definitely seem to be having some issues but they are far from the best zoos/aquariums have to offer in terms of cetacean care. They have been receiving their fair share of criticism lately so perhaps that’ll prompt a change in management. I would hope that they send out their dolphins but their lone orca, Lolita, may just be better off living the rest of her life at Miami considering she’s a very picky animal and may not adjust too well to big changes like a transfer. If they don’t want to send their cetaceans out, I’d really hope they will renovate their existing habitats at least.

    Zoos (like everything else in the world) aren’t perfect and I wouldn’t expect them to be. Most zoos/aquariums these days do try their very best to prioritize animal welfare but occasionally they all do slip up and I understand that even minor slip ups aren’t acceptable when it comes to an animal’s life. Most of us zoochatters are some of the biggest critics of zoos and aren’t afraid to “attack” a zoo for its unsuitable and unethical habitats for their animals. Even one of the best zoos in the world, SDZ, receives so much criticism from us zoochatters for their inadequate habitats like the bear grottos. I agree that without this criticism, zoos/aquariums wouldn’t be as motivated to make changes but oftentimes ARA groups take it too far. A prime example of this would be the orca breeding/transfer ban and phase out, much of the evidence ARA groups to support this was over exaggerated or simply not true. But I digress, I’d hate for this to turn into another cetaceans in captivity debate… To sum it up, I do agree with you, @J-K, we should criticize zoos for their weaknesses so that they improve and get better but we shouldn’t stoop so low as to bash them for everything they do like AR activists.
     
    TinoPup and Great Argus like this.
  12. Bengal Tiger

    Bengal Tiger Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    21 Aug 2021
    Posts:
    1,652
    Location:
    Scatman's World
    I looked it up, but all I could find was stuff from ARA groups, who I don't particularly trust.
     
    BenFoxster likes this.
  13. Great Argus

    Great Argus Well-Known Member 5+ year member

    Joined:
    30 Mar 2018
    Posts:
    5,442
    Location:
    California
    Could've read the attached USDA report itself. ;)

     
    J-K, nczoofan, TinoPup and 2 others like this.
  14. Bengal Tiger

    Bengal Tiger Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    21 Aug 2021
    Posts:
    1,652
    Location:
    Scatman's World
    I feel so dumb right now... I have no idea how the heck I missed the big blue letters. I now know what the issues are, though.
     
    BenFoxster likes this.
  15. IndianRhino

    IndianRhino Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    8 Jun 2020
    Posts:
    1,917
    Location:
    San Diego
    Don't know how you always seem to miss things when you're searching for information or reading things :p

    Either your computer/phone is not very functional or you don't pay attention to everything when you're looking for stuff... o_O
     
    nczoofan, TinoPup and Bengal Tiger like this.
  16. Bengal Tiger

    Bengal Tiger Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    21 Aug 2021
    Posts:
    1,652
    Location:
    Scatman's World
    I had scrolled down the page, and then scrolled up, it appears what I though was the beginning of the post was not :oops: