Reflections on Captivity in Paradise

During our Okinawan holiday we visited the very famous Okinawan Churaumi aquarium. This has been on my list for some time, and I was giddy with the anticipation of what wonders it would reveal.

The whale sharks were immense. Powerful and dominating the visit for most people. I found them wonderful to watch and extremely intimidating but for me the who was stolen by a few of their room mates. The manta rays! They were spectacular and watching them glide through the water was wonderful. Like a dance! We particularly fell for a leopard print manta, who was just missing the red lippy and heels in her night out ensemble.

We also observed the beautiful tropical fish. Although, I couldn’t help but think I had preferred them when the swam around me in ocean whilst snorkeling from Zamami island. This started a thought, one that would eventually end my trip with the realisation ‘I don’t think I should visit zoos and I think I should learn more about conservation’, a topic I know little about.

During our trip we therefore wondered into the conservation section.  We were exhausted at this stage due to the amount of people and screaming little people we had to pass through to get here. The area was sadly empty compared to the rest of the aquarium.  Here we learnt more about the horrible impact human rubbish and lack of care cause the blue planet. We also learnt that the mighty whale sharks that sat centre stage at the aquarium had been captured in the wild for display here. There was a lack of information on the translation, and I hoped a google would put my mind at rest and that they were injured and needed specialist care. Sadly, it did not.

Whale sharks are on the endangered species list and can live for generations in the wild, up to 60 years. At the Okinawa aquarium the average life expectancy for a whale shark is just under two years. The aquarium has been co-designed by an environmentalist and has an extensive manta ray breeding programme. Still, the life expectancy of manta rays is also alarmingly low.

My reflections on this well sculpted aquarium are that each and every creature was wonderful to see up close and personal. It was a unique experience to witness. But, providing they aren’t captured or injured by humans, they would all perhaps to be better off out in the great blue.

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