Recently, there has been a massive promotion campaign by Ocean Park for its new aquarium, Aqua City.
The park has also talked about increasing its shopping areas, which will be suitable for mainland visitors. These zones clearly have no educational or conservation purposes.
In expanding these zones, the management at the park seems to have forgotten that it is supposed to be about education. It is important to go behind the facade and recognise some inconvenient truths.
It is now preparing for another attraction, the Polar Adventure, and will import many polar species. These animals are either purchased from various zoos or will be captured in the wild.
Take penguins and beluga whales for example. Being kept in zoos or aquariums has nothing to do with conservation of the species. It actually decreases their sustainability because their numbers are decreasing in the wild and so there is less chance of reproduction. Worse still, given the fact that Hong Kong is sub-tropical, the artificial polar habitat will require a huge amount of energy in order to simulate the cold environment.
The carbon dioxide emitted through the generation of so much electricity will aggravate global warming, destroying the wild habitat of all polar species. It seems ironic this is the case when presumably there is an educational purpose to the polar exhibition. Putting wild animals into an enclosed artificial habitat does not amount to conservation. In fact, it is a form of imprisonment.
Conservation requires the protection of the species' natural habitat and the improvement of their living environment. The best form of conservation involves observing them but leaving them alone. There should be no human disturbance.
When these animals are transported, the journey can range from a few days to a couple of weeks. Many of them die during or immediately after the transportation process. One of the species of blue-fin tuna was imported to Aqua City. During transportation, 10 died.
According to the Ocean Park Corporation Ordinance (Cap 388), it is a recreational and educational public park. It should recognise the importance of corporate social responsibility and avoid ecological damage and harming wildlife that is under threat. It should not regard threatened animals as good for an eye-catching advert, nor should it sacrifice the well-being of animals so they can become a tourist attraction.
The park rarely reveals how many newly imported animals have died. The conservation message it sends is confusing to the public. It blurs the line between environmental education and animal entertainment. Wildlife should not be owned like property by anybody. All lives, whether they be humans or animals, should be respected.
The next time people visit zoos or aquariums, they should ask themselves what these animals have done that they have to endure life imprisonment.
Roy Tam Hoi-pong, president, Green Sense