LEON VALLEY, Texas — The San Antonio Aquarium has been in the spotlight after a horn shark was stolen last week.
In an interview with KENS 5, 38-year-old Anthony Shannon, the man who took the shark, said he did so to try to save the animal. The shark was returned Monday night, less than 48 hours after being taken. Shannon took the shark from a touch pool, a tank with an open top that allows aquarium guests to get a “hands-on” experience with the marine life.
An online petition on Care2.com asking the the aquarium to close its touch pool has over 17,000 signatures. The petition came about after the shark was taken from the pool. The petition claims that touch pools are "stressful for animals" and can cause injury or death to the sea life. The petition asks the San Antonio Aquarium to close the interactive touch pool on the premise that guests don't need to be able to touch the animals to appreciate them.
“Aquarium-goers, especially children, are often rowdy and can cause the fish unnecessary stress,” the petition states. “These animals require special conditions that do not include poking and prodding them.” The petition concludes with an appeal to protect the animals by closing the touch pool. “Let's ask the San Antonio Aquarium to allow their visitors a chance to learn about marine life in a way that doesn't put their animals at risk,” it says.
Thursday, the aquarium responded to the online petition, insisting that they are doing things the right way. A statement released by the aquarium reads:
“We share our planet with millions of species of animals, many of which are threatened or endangered due to climate change, pollution, urban development, or a variety of other man-made factors. Coral reefs are disappearing. Salamanders in Appalachia are shrinking. People killed an estimated 100 million sharks in 2017, far exceeding the number where populations can recover.
At the San Antonio Aquarium, we live by the quote by Baba Dioum: “In the end, we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand and we will understand only what we are taught”. We recognize that there is a huge problem happening in our world and things can only be improved through changes to the way we live our lives such as recycling, environmental protection laws, and learning respect, instead of fear, for many species.
Our mission is to inspire the younger generation of ocean explorers and conservationists through education and a shared experience with live animals. With over 8,000 living animals representing habitats from the Oregon shores to remote Indonesian Islands, our hope is to instill respect and awe for our rich natural resources.
In order to continue our works, we have to give the animals the highest quality of care. We do regular water testing, provide restaurant quality food for our animals, and work closely with and follow recommendations of veterinarians. We also monitor animal health and wellbeing throughout the day and give any animal who is not interested in interacting with the public its space, which does not happen often as our animals seem to enjoy the attention. Due to this, we have a very low animal mortality rate which is a great indicator that our animals are well taken care of.
Another indicator of healthy, happy animals is our high birth rates in our breeding programs. We find that many more people are inspired after being able to physically interact with the animals and would like to invite anyone who questions their care and wellbeing to come out to our aquarium and check it out for themselves.”