Mar Del Plata Aquarium Argentina Zoo Review

Mar del Plata Aquarium, Argentina – Zoo Review

The RIGHT-tourism Zoo Review is a quick but informed guide to the quality of places where the public can see animals, including zoos, dolphinariums and other attractions.

We’ve used a range of measures, taken from information available online, to judge how well the animals at the particular zoo or animal attraction are looked after. More than just a ‘review’, the results are actually a Quality Index which will allow tourists and the attractions themselves to judge how well the attractions are performing.

Please note, the information we use is taken from what we assume to be genuine and factually correct comments from reviews, blogs and news stories. If there are factual inaccuracies, please let us know and we will make the relevant changes.

RIGHT-tourism Zoo Review Rating for: Mar del Plata Aquarium, Argentina

Zoo_Review_Stamp_Unacceptable

Summary

The troubled Mar del Plata Aquarium was purchased in 2006 by the Spanish group and owners of Blackpool Zoo and Bournemouth Oceanarium, Parques Reunidos. There are very few, if any, animals in this park that, by all accounts, are not being exploited under the pretence of “education”. Dolphins, sea lions, birds, fish and even sharks are all part of shows or visitor “experiences”.

Children can be “trainers-for-a-day” forcing marine animals to do tricks and humanising them. My question is how can these children learn the true nature of animals that perform unnatural behaviours? We cannot assume that children will naturally respect their rights when they are witnessing animals, that aren’t allowed to live free, perform routines deceptively called “playing”? I believe there is something inherently wrong in making our youngest believe that animals are having fun; it distorts the reality of how these animals live.

They also offer the opportunity to dive with fish and even in cages with sharks. Visitors need no previous diving experience and even children are encouraged to do this. This means that the sharks, which appear to be bored in their small, shallow and bare tank, are constantly exposed to humans with no refuge.

However the aquarium does have a rehabilitation centre, where they finance scientific research related to marine pollution amongst others things. Many local reviews of the park are eager to remind people that the park, itself, is a huge source of pollution and that maybe all the oiled penguins they help is a way of diverting attention from their own negligence.

Many countries work hard to remove this obsolete idea that animals must serve and entertain us to be of value. Mar del Plata Aquarium, apparently, not only preserves this idea, but reinforces it. They’re clearly focused on “the show” and exploitation for profit over the welfare and comfort of their inhabitants. In an enlightened time when we should see an end to all water parks Mar del Plata is nothing more than an aquatic circus that continues to grow before our eyes.

Mar del Plata Aquarium

Section One: Social Media and News

This section looks at how the attraction is rated by people on key reviewing sites, and in blogs/the media. The reviews are often not concerned with animal welfare, so this section has a lower influence on the overall mark than other sections. However, it is an important measure of the way the attraction is viewed by visitors.

Number of negative TripAdvisor reviews

For the most recent 20 reviews which appear on the official TripAdvisor page for the attraction, how many mention animal welfare in a negative way. The score is worked out as a percentage (see method below).

Number of negative reviews:  8/20

Score: 1.5 points

Out of the first 20 reviews, 8 mention concerns about animal welfare. These were focused on diving with sharks and shows with marine animals. Only one positive comment referred to the good treatment from trainers. The rest don’t mention animal welfare.

Number of negative Google reviews

For the most recent 20 reviews which appear on the Google search page for the attraction, how many mention animal welfare in a negative way. The score is worked out as a percentage (see method below).

Number of negative reviews:  13/20

Score: 1 point

Out of the first 20 reviews, 13 mention concerns about animal welfare. These were focused on captive animals forced to do shows; they talk about the training process, including starving the animals; they show disgust for the aquarium because it’s like a “prison” and the animals are “slaves”. Remaining 7 comments don’t talk about welfare.

Number of negative news articles and blogs
For the most recent 10 independent blogs or news articles for the attraction, how many mention animal welfare in a negative way. The score is worked out as a percentage (see method below).

Number of negative mentions:  7/10

Score: 2 points

Out of the first 10 articles and blogs, 7 mention animal welfare concerns. These were focused on the ability to dive with sharks from 8 years old. Another article from a local of Mar del Plata, says that this aquarium, on the one hand, conducts ecological programs in relation to rescuing penguins, but, on the other hand, they pollute the local ecosystems and beaches, where now children play in park sewage. Other articles showed they make animals perform day and night, that they use new born dolphins in the shows and that they give children the opportunity to be “trainers-for-a-day”. This demonstrates a lack of respect and overworking of the animals as well as nurturing this same objectification within developing minds. The rest are blogs of people denouncing these facilities, comparing its mismanagement with SeaWorld (their words, not ours) and begging tourists not to visit and asking to close this aquarium. The remaining 3 have no concerns about animal welfare.

Total Score for Social Media and News Section:  4.5/10

 

Section Two: General Quality of Life

This section looks generally at how the animals, as a whole, appear to be treated. It is based on the internationally recognised Five Freedoms, which focus on key aspects of animal welfare including feeding, housing, health, behaviour and protection from fear/distress.

Each item is scored as either two points for a Yes, zero points for a No or one point for Possibly. (The “Possibly” category also includes situations where the answer would be Sometimes; or if the answer is unknown).

Absence of prolonged hunger and/or thirst

Score: No   0 Points

All the animals used in the shows are not fed as a matter of right, but are fed as treats to perform correctly.

Being fed an appropriate diet based on their wild diet

Score: Possibly  1 Point

Dolphins, seals and macaws are subjected to a diet based on numerous daily show times, prohibiting a natural diet.

Ease of movement within living quarters

Score: No   0 Points

Dolphins, sharks and birds, when living free and wild, would travel many miles every day and no tanks could simulate this lifestyle. Sharks, especially, are confined in a small tank of shallow proportions.

Enrichment in living quarters (eg climbing frame, toys etc)

Score: No   0 Points

The tanks of sharks and dolphins are completely bare. Of the remaining animals, like fish, there are not enough pictures of the enclosure.

Absence of injuries or disease

Score: Possibly   1 Point

There is no evidence of injuries or disease one way or the other.

Absence of pain (eg being not being chained, or not being hit by staff)

Score: No  0 Points

By accounts, the animals used in shows are subjected to learning human activities by a process of subjecting them to, not only physical pain, but also mental anguish.

Ability to express natural and social behaviours in living quarters

Score: No   0 Points

Most of the inhabitants of this aquarium are required to perform shows which are far removed from showing animal nature and behaviour.

Good human-animal relationship with staff

Score: No   0 Points

Animals forced to perform are not, in my opinion, in a good relationship with the trainers that care for them.

Absence of general fear/distress/apathy

Score: No   0 Points

Marine animal shows may seem fun but the reality is very serious; there is scientific evidence proving that these animals suffer greatly in captivity and they can’t meet their behavioral and physiological needs. In the case of the sharks, living in small tanks with no environmental enrichment can cause stress and aggressiveness. It also reduces their life expectancy and may cause many problems with their health.

Ability to seek privacy/refuge from humans and other animals

Score: No   0 Points

Some of the animals in the aquarium, like the penguins, turtles and sea lions have that ability, whilst many others, like sharks, are constantly exposed to human contact. Facilities that can provide this refuge can be costly, and as such are nonexistent.

Total Score for General Quality of Life:  2/20

Section Three: Interaction with the Public

This section focusses on the way the attraction allows the public to touch, play with, photograph, feed or otherwise interact with the animals. The focus is on whether or not the interactions are causing harm or stress/discomfort to the animals, and if they could be dangerous to the public.

Each item is scored as either two points for a Yes, zero points for a No or one point for Possibly. (The “Possibly” category also includes situations where the answer would be Sometimes; or if the answer is unknown).

The interactions are not harmful in any way for the animal’s welfare

Score: No   0 Points

Shows have been proved to be detrimental to animal’s welfare in many cases.

The interactions are not harmful in any way for the public’s welfare (any previous history of dangerous incidents)

Score: No   0 Points

There is no evidence of physical harm or attacks. Moreover, and equally important, they encourage children to become trainers, swim with dolphins, sea lions, fish and sharks. This doesn’t only put people at risk, but alienates them from the rights that these animals have.

The animals are not forced to interact with the public – they can refuse

Score: No   0 Points

As has already been made clear in previous notes, due to the shows and activities, the animals are forced to interact.

The public are not allowed to handle the animals and touch them

Score: No   0 Points

The public are encouraged to handle the animals and touch them.

The interactions are supervised by staff and in an educational context

Score: No   0 Points

Part of the education they offer are talks about the species that inhabit the aquarium. Under the guise of education, they offer numerous shows, where they say you can learn a lot, but these are humiliating and destructive about the value of nature.

Total Score for Interaction with the Public:  0/10

 

Section Four: Conservation and Education

This section looks at whether or not the attraction has a focus on conservation – for example does it support animals in the wild through breeding programmes, research or donations; and education – are visitors informed about the animals so they are not simply seen as objects for human amusement/entertainment.

Each item is scored as either two points for a Yes, zero points for a No or one point for Possibly. (The “Possibly” category also includes situations where the answer would be Sometimes; or if the answer is unknown).

Are some of the animals part of international breeding programs?

Score: No   0 Points

No evidence appears anywhere of international breeding programs. They have bred southern rockhopper penguins, but these animals are not endangered or set for release. They are only more animals for exhibiting and to be part of the penguin shows.

Is there evidence of them having released animals into the wild?

Score: No   0 Points

No evidence appears anywhere about releasing captivity animals into the wild. The only animals that are released by the aquarium are the penguins they rescue each year from pollution to help them recover.

Do they actively undertake scientific research into conservation/behaviour of their animals?

Score: Possibly   1 Point

They claim to undertake scientific research, but there is no evidence of this and they are known to contaminate the local environment. This means they are not popular with locals, conservationists or animal rights groups as they have not conducted any clean up operations. They do, however, actively help clean penguins yearly of pollutants.

Does the attraction give money to conservation or animal protection programmes?

Score: No   0 Points

There is no evidence of this anywhere that I could find.

Does the attraction provide educational talks or written displays to inform visitors about the animals?

Score: Possibly  1 Points

They offer talks and shows to visitors, but while on the one hand they talk about the characteristics and ecology of these animals, on the other they are humanising and humiliating them, taking away their natural behaviour.

Total Score for Conservation and Education:  2/10

 

Zoo Review Final Score for Mar del Plata Aquarium:  8.5/50

Rating: 0-10: Unacceptable – the animal welfare at this attraction appears to be of a very low standard and a cause of great concern

Do you agree or disagree with this Zoo Review? Please let us know in the Comments below.
If you are from this attraction and would like to comment on this Zoo Review, we’ll be happy to publish your response. Please email info@careforthewild.com or click
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Notes

  1. This report was compiled on: 17th November 2014 by Kira Ramirez. Find out more about our Zoo Review campaign here.
  2. Zoo Review Final Score is given out of 50 as a sum of the four sections, then a RIGHT-tourism Zoo Review rating is awarded based on this score:

0-10: Unacceptable – the animal welfare at this attraction appears to be of a very low standard and a cause of great concern
11-20: Poor – it appears that significant improvement is needed in order to meet welfare standards
21-30: Average – the attraction scores well in some areas but improvements would be welcome
31-40: Good – Public opinion and animal welfare measures suggest that the animals here are looked after well
41-50: Best in Class – the welfare of the animals appears to be of a very high standard

  1. TripAdvisor and Google scores are worked out by dividing the number of negative welfare reviews by the total (20) and multiplying by 100 to give a percentage, then giving a score out of 2.5 as follows:

0-19% negative 2.5 points
20-39% 2 points
40-59% 1.5 points
60-79% 1 point
80-89% 0.5 point
90–100% 0 points

  1. News and blog scores are worked out by dividing the number of negative welfare reviews by the total (10) and multiplying by 100 to give a percentage, then giving a score out of 5 as follows:

0-19% negative 5 points
20-39% 4 points
40-59% 3 points
60-79% 2 point
80-89% 1 point
90–100% 0 points





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