Nearly four dozen penguins, about a hundred fish, various reptiles, and a dolphin have just been discovered languishing in the stagnant waters of an abandoned aquarium in Japan.
It’s one of the worst cases of animal neglect seen, enough to make someone “sick to their stomach,” and worse yet, it happened in a facility that claims to be looking out for its residents’ best interests.
The animals were found in the dilapidated Inubosaki Marine Park Aquarium in Choshi, north-east of Tokyo, the Guardian reports. A bottlenose dolphin, named Honey, Humboldt penguins, and the other animals have been locked away in the aquarium since it closed, about seven months ago.
“Honey is a symbol of both the problem of marine parks and Taiji’s hunting practices,” said Akiko Mitsunobu, chief of aquarium issues for the local Animal Rights Center. “When we went to check on the facility, she was showing signs of stress, putting her head weakly in and out of the water.”
Photographs of the aquarium, taken on March, show Honey suffering in a small pool, while the penguins mill about piles of broken concrete. While there is evidence that former employees of the aquarium are feeding the animals, perhaps from the facility’s freezers or with fish from a local market, there is no telling how much food they have left, or if it’s even suitable for the animals.
“I am worried that Honey will die if this situation continues,” Mitsunobu said. “Lately she has just been repeating the same movements – dipping her head in and out of the water – and is showing definite signs of stress.”
Honey was first captured in 2005 near Taiji, a Japanese whaling town that was thrust into Infamy after the Oscar-winning 2009 documentary “The Cove” exposed the annual dolphin hunt that takes place there. According to Reuters, though it was once commonplace for aquariums to source their dolphins from Taiji, the practice has come under heavy scrutiny from animal advocacy groups ever since the documentary’s release.
The Japan Association of Zoos and Aquariums no longer supports buying dolphins from Taiji, which, along with a decline in visitors following the Tōhoku earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear crisis in 2011, contributed to the Inubosaki Marine Park Aquarium shuttering its doors seven years later. However, the aquarium’s closing has also made it difficult for animal rescue groups to get in touch with anyone who can help free Honey and the others.
“I get feelings of danger and doubt from the fact that they are so silent about this,” Sachiko Azuma, a representative of local activist group PEACE (Put an End to Animal Cruelty and Exploitation) told Reuters. “As a group that handles animals, they have a responsibility to explain what they intend to do with Honey and the other animals.”
At this point, it’s not just informed organizations who are calling for the release of these languishing marine creatures, but people around the world, on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media networks.
See more of the Inubosaki Marine Park Aquarium in the video below.
Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.