Sea lion and Buenos Aires Zoo trainer — Photo: Laura Gravino/Zoológico de Buenos Aires
BUENOS AIRES — Zoo and aquarium shows may make kids smile, but some animal rights activists say it basically amount to slave labor. The debate returns after two sea lions recently died in the Buenos Aires Zoo within three days of each other, and activists suspect at least one death was from the stress of doing too many water shows in the Zoo's aquarium space.
Argentine daily Clarin reports that members of the animal rights group Sin Zoo said one sea lion died last month after doing 15 shows in a day, while the other was possibly being overfed by spectators. Their trainers insist they had not noticed any of the seals eating differently.
Sin Zoo spokeswoman Malala Fontán told Clarín that on July 26 one of the group's activists stood at the gates of the aquarium and counted the sea lions' shows. "Exactly 15," Fontán said. "People inside then said that one of the little ones collapsed, and all this when they had sent the vet on holiday. They don't care about anything."
Fontán dismissed the idea of the spectacles being "educational" programs for children, and said they constitute shows involving animals, which the city banned in 2006. She said the NGO lodged 30 complaints with local authorities, and "none led to an inspection."
An aquarium spokesman, Fernando Peralta, said that "it is not uncommon for animals to die for one or other reason," though in this case "we do not know what happened exactly." Test results to determine the causes of death will need a month, he said.