As I mentioned in my last post, I have also been on holiday over the summer, to bright, sunny Scarborough. This was mostly a laying-around-the-pool-doing-sod-all holiday, but we did manage to do Scarborough SeaLife Centre, and, in case I have never mentioned this before, my zoological area of expertise happens to be marine life!!
I like SeaLife as a franchise, because they do do a lot of work for conservation projets, including WDCS (Whale & Dolphin Conservation Society), and, despite the fact that they have overseas centres, they have a 100% no-cetacean policy. No marine mammals are kept in captivity in any SeaLife Centre, except for seals which are receiving medical attention, in which case, the centres serve as veterinary hospitals. In the Scarborough Centre, there were many fascinating permanent exhibits, including a Pacific Giant Octopus, a jellyfish display, leafy sea dragons, seahorses, pipefish, penguins and an artificial reef housing a variety of reef fish, as well as blacktip reef sharks, nurse sharks and leopard sharks.
Perhaps the most unusual inhabitant of the aquarium was the 50-year old Loggerhead Turtle, Antiopi. She was rescued from the waters off the Greek island of Zakynthos, where she suffered severe head injuries following a collision with a pleasure boat. Unfortunately, her injuries were so extensive that by the time the rescue crew arrived, she had suffered permanent brain damage. She was brought to the centre, where it was discovered that the way her disability affects her is that she is permanently hungry. In mammals, birds and fish, this problem can often result in obesity, and all its associated problems (kidney disease, heart problems, high cholesterol, diabetes, etc.), in turtles, the problem is far more serious. Because of their shell, turtles cannot comfortably carry very much body fat, and if excessive fat builds up under the skin or around the organs, it cannot grow outwards against the bony shell, and can begin to crush the vital organs, causing internal bleeding, breathing difficulties and organ failure. In light of this, Antiopi is on a strict diet, and is fed mainly oily fish that carry little or no fat.
Another interesting specimen at the aquarium was a small pod (pod? Oh, hell, it’ll do…) of common seals. Yes, I did say that the aquarium operated a no-mammal policy, however, all the seals kept at the sanctuary are rescue seals who, for one reason or another, would not survive if released into the wild. For example, one resident male seal, Bubbles, is 14 years old (and therefore, in the wild would probably fall victim in a fight to a younger male), and is partially sighted, and therefore unable to hunt live food for himself. While I was there, there was also a young seal pup (not weaned – 6mths or younger), which was found on a local beach, having been apparently abandoned by its mother and severely underweight, dehydrated and malnourished. Fortunately, he is making good progress in captivity, and is having minimal human company, which will prepare him for going back to the wild once he is weaned onto solid food.
I find this an interesting contrast to the “educational” methods of the larger international aquariums, such as SeaWorld, but it’s late at night, and I’m running out of room on this page, so I will have to cover this argument in another post (and believe me, I will!!)