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How One Zoo Is ‘Educating’ the Public

By law, marine mammals can only be held in captivity and put on display at zoos and marine circuses if they are doing this for “educational purposes.” But at the Mystic Aquarium, the educational outreach involves teaching people how to keep animals in captivity! [readon]

“Educating” people on how to keep belugas captive at the Mystic Aquarium

To comply with the Marine Mammal Protection Act, your typical zoo or aquarium will have notices up explaining how such-and-such animals live in the wild, or perhaps an interactive display where kids can press buttons and get information about whales or sea lions. Or before the show begins at a marine circus like SeaWorld, a video will show killer whales or dolphins in the wild with adventure-type music and a voice explaining how magnificent these animals are … and then the gate opens and the captive orca is led into the arena to perform tricks.

But the Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut has a new kind of wildlife education for children. Rather than even teaching them how we need to protect animals in the wild from human interference (like capturing them in the first place!), the aquarium is teaching them how to train the animals in captivity.

A new all-day program, costing $375 per adult or teenager, starts with lessons about the aquarium’s animals, with some passing information about conservation and research. And then you practice training a beluga, working with sea lions, and feeding the penguins.

Aquarium spokesperson Erin Merz explains that the training day is good for animal lovers and anyone who thinks they might be interested in becoming marine animal trainers.

Bottom line: The “educational” program at the Mystic Aquarium is about teaching people how to keep more animals captive.