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article imageHarp seals receive reprieve but aquarium asks for donations

By Elizabeth Batt     Sep 15, 2012 in Environment
Quebec - Two harp seal pups scheduled to be destroyed today at the Aquarium des Iles in Quebec, Canada, have earned a reprieve until a new home is found. But the aquarium is now asking for donations of $73,000 to help fund their daily needs.
On Sept. 10, Digital Journal reported the story of six month old harp seals, Zak and Mika, who were scheduled to be destroyed today for research purposes.
The two harp seals, captured from the wild this spring as newborn pups by Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO-MPO), were sent to the aquarium as a tourist attraction explained Pedro Baranda, of British Columbia's Island Wildlife Natural Care Center (IWNCC), a registered wild animal charity.
But with the Aquarium des Iles operating during the spring and summer months only, once the facility closed its doors for the season on Sept. 15, Zak and Mika were scheduled to be destroyed for research. The facility knew this said IWNCC when they initially accepted the seals despite being told in advance by DFO-MPO, that the pups could not be released back into the wild once they had served their purpose.
A summer worker who assisted the seals with their daily care, learned of their fate at summer's end and blew the whistle on her employers. After contacting several animal rights groups for help, IWNCC learned of the situation from an associate at the Brigitte Bardot Foundation and immediately launched a petition targeting the Honourable Keith Ashfield, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. The petition has so far attracted over 150,000 global signatures.
The Aquarium des Iles claims that it has been receiving seals from DFO for 25 years and that they "were usually released at sea at the end of the season, including harp seals," they said. But now the aquarium added, "according to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), the release of the seals in the environment poses a risk of contamination not only to the seal herd, but also to other marine mammals."
Bowing to public pressure, the aquarium recently announced on its Facebook page that Zak and Mika would not be destroyed but that funds were needed to provide care for the seals:
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 animals' well-being until their transfer. The web site will allow participating to this fundraising, which needs to be completed by September 21st.
But IWNCC said, this "bizarre twist" of asking petition signers to ensure the seals' welfare is nothing short of ridiculous:
The Aquarium des Iles is demanding $73,000 from the public, within six days, for temporary care until Zak and Mika are either placed or released. We think this is extortion!
Given that according to an IWNCC statement, "The aquarium admitted they knew in advance the pups would have to be killed after they’ve outlived their summer usefulness," the animal welfare charity is urging citizens who haven't yet signed their name to the petition, to do so now. "Tell the Fisheries Minister to step in for Zak and Mika," the group said, "$73,000 or no."
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