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Over 70,000 animals could be 're-homed' if the Vancouver Aquarium closes

"Is re-homing different than re-locating?"
Photo: vanaqua / Facebook

On Wednesday, the Vancouver Aquarium announced that it may be forced to permanently close doors due to a lack of revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the organization stated that it would never allow the animals to suffer at any time. 

As the largest aquarium in Canada, the Vancouver Aquarium houses roughly 70,000 animals. Lasse Gustavsson, Chief Executive Officer at the Vancouver Aquarium, told Vancouver Is Awesome in a phone call that the animals continue to receive proper care and attention, despite the pandemic. And, should the facility be forced to close, money has been set aside for re-homing the animals. 

With this in mind, many people are concerned about the welfare of the animals, and worry that the Aquarium may not be able to look out for the best interests of each of the thousands of animals. 

Victoria Shroff, Animal Law Lawyer, told Vancouver Is Awesome in a phone call that animals should not be used for the entertainment of people. Specifically, she points to Helen, the senior Pacific white-sided dolphin, who is the last remaining cetacean at the Aquarium. She notes that since the organization is no longer permitted to hold cetaceans, Helen is being sent to Seaworld in Texas. 

Last year, Canada prohibited the keeping of whales and dolphins in Captivity along with breeding said animals and exploiting them for entertainment. However, Shroff argues that Helen would likely be on public display for guests at Seaworld. Moreover, she worries that the senior dolphin may be forced to perform tricks. 

"I'm not certain the Vancouver Aquarium has exhausted the list of places for Helen," remarks Shroff. "She used to have company in her tank at the aquarium, and she's been alone for the past couple of years. She needs to be with other cetaceans, but she would be better in a sanctuary where she wouldn't be used for entertainment."

Shroff is also concerned that Seaworld may try to breed the senior dolphin, and that her journey down south may take a toll on her.

"I'm very concerned that they not try to breed Helen, as having dolphin offspring in captivity means they are doomed to a life in a tiny tank. I'm also concerned with the physical transfer itself of Helen, who is middle aged," she says.

While Shroff notes that Helen would likely be placed with a compatible tank mate in Seaworld, she isn't convinced that Texas is the best place for the senior dolphin to retire. With that said, she said that Helen would likely receive more attention than some of the other animals at the Aquarium, such as individual fish. She also quesions what the Aquarium means by "re-homing" the animals. 

"Is re-homing different than re-locating?" she asks. "They need to look at the best interest of each animal." 

Shroff adds that this is also a chance for the Aquarium to reevaluate how they operate. She wonders if they need to display animals to the public at all, or if they could reinvent the concept of the learning facility through other tools.