22 June 2008

Team Zissou

This just moved to the top of my list for reasons to visit Japan -- barely edging out sushi and ramen. The Churaumi Aquarium in Okinawa has a tank large enough to house four whale sharks. I'll let that sink in a little before you check out some videos. It's freaking ridiculous. And I thought seeing sunfish at the Monterey Aquarium was pretty cool.

Of course, it might be easier to just go to the aquarium in Atlanta and pay $300 for the privilege of swimming with these things. Oh but morality. According to this article, two whale sharks died at the Georgia Aquarium last year for mysterious reasons (The largest aquarium in the world is in Georgia? Who knew?). Their "best hypothesis" is that they reacted poorly to chemical treatment administered to combat parasites. It's either that or whale sharks don't do well in captivity since they're used to swimming long distances in the wild. Pick one.

For some people the idea of zoos, aquariums, and containment of wild animals is disgusting and I can see where they're coming from. However, there's something to be said about the value of having these amazing creatures on hand to study, preserve, and showcase. Tossing random people into a tank to make a few bucks seems kind of crass though. Then again, so does inviting little children to go hug killer whales for a few oohs and ahhs.

I should really take the time to think about where I stand on the ethics involved here. But I love the zoo and Sea World! I will say that there are few things more serene (yet exciting) than watching the Shamu Cam. Seriously, just leave it open on your desktop and get ready to be transported to a happy place.