After a yummy dinner of take-out Italian at my house, we had planned to go see the Big Bugs, but my "buggie" loving niece and the rest of the girls in my family would have to wait. The Botanic Gardens was closed.
We refused to let our evening adventure just end. I was most stubborn. I'd left work early for this outing. And my boss was none too happy about that. So before admitting defeat, we quickly called all the other opportunities. The zoo, museums, but we were left with the fishies.
Not that I don't appreciate a good aquarium. I used to absolutely love our aquarium. Back when it was Ocean Journey I would spend hours there. Often. Watching the sharks, the fish, the sea and river otters, and always the tigers.
I loved the educational side of it, the volunteers who answered your questions almost before you had time to ask them, and the dive volunteers who would clean the tanks from the inside.
Then it started having fund-raising issues. And a fish restaurant company bought them out. It was sad. And I hadn't gone for a few years. I was afraid at what they might do to it.
Apparently I was right to be concerned.
The aquarium still has tigers*, and river otters, although both were napping. But everything was just a mess. The facilities in general and tanks in particular are dirty, inside and out.
There is also very little in the way of education. The placards by the tanks cover one or two species in a ten species tank. But many things you were left wondering about. Which fish is that? Where is that fish that the entire placard describes? And there was absolutely no one to answer questions.
But perhaps the biggest travesty is how the animals and fish are taken care of. In the duck area, there was a poor duck outside his exhibit, gently banging his beak on the tank glass, wanting back in.
We waited for a while. To see if he could fly back up. To see if anyone that worked there might come by to help. There was no one in sight.
After one failed attempt in which I scared the poor duck a bit, I managed to scoop him up and place him back in his exhibit. He excitedly washed himself off and greeted his other duck friends. We had done our good deed for the evening.
The sting rays in the "petting tank" also concerned us. They have it set up so that you can pet and feed them, which is really cool. My nieces, sister-in-law and mom thought so as much as I did.
But there they are in a tank, where anyone can touch them, and there is absolutely no supervision. No one to keep the teenage boy next to us from grabbing the poor ray. One even had a bloody fin which likely resulted from some such abuse.
As we left the aquarium I was sad. Very sad.
The amazing non-profit aquarium I once loved is long gone. My nieces still enjoyed seeing all the fishies, turtles, eels, sharks, rays, and tigers. But it's not the place I once hoped to take my own kids someday.
The magic has been replaced with commerce. The calm with flashing lights. The education with a focus on buying key chains.
No longer a place I longed to go once a week. Or stay until they kicked me out. We headed home. Away from the Downtown Aquarium. Once my sanctuary, now a Landry's amusement park.
You can see larger versions of the images by clicking on them.
* This tiger shot is from a previous visit, back when the glass was clean and a clear shot could be taken.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
bugs to fish