Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Zoos, aquariums find friends in time of need in disaster

When zoos and aquariums were struck by the Great East Japan Earthquake, those who knew most about animals and fish rushed to their rescue, although some 200,000 fish died at an aquarium in Fukushima Prefecture.

At Yagiyama Zoological Park in Sendai, food became scarce after a feed supplier's warehouse was damaged by the March 11 tsunami and transportation networks were disrupted.

The zoo had to reduce the amount of food for an African elephant, which eats about 60 kilograms a day. Electricity and water supplies were also suspended.

A volunteer group of zookeepers and veterinarians from around the country immediately sprang into action, shipping the first batch of food on March 17.

A large number of zoos took part in the second haul on March 23. Sapporo Maruyama Zoo airlifted feed. Zoos in the Hokuriku, Tokai and Kinki regions offered to provide support.

Shigehisa Kawakami, director of Gunma Safari Park in Tomioka, Gunma Prefecture, gathered food from zoos in and around the Kanto region.

"Only those in the same profession have the know-how about which animal needs what food and how much," Kawakami said.

The last shipment to Yagiyama Zoological Park left Tokyo on April 2.

Fourteen zoos and aquariums in the Tohoku and Kanto regions were affected by the earthquake and tsunami, according to the 156-member Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

In addition to Yagiyama Zoological Park, Akita Omoriyama Zoo in Akita and Morioka Zoological Park suffered serious food shortages.

Shigeyuki Yamamoto, chairman of the Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums, who coordinated relief efforts, said the "solidarity" displayed by zoos and aquariums was unprecedented.

"There is no question that the priority should be given to saving human lives during a disaster," Yamamoto said. "But it is also important to pay consideration to the valuable 'lives' that heal the human mind."

An estimated 200,000 fish died at Aquamarine Fukushima, an aquarium in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, after a power outage knocked out systems to circulate water and maintain tank temperatures on March 11,

Officials contacted Kamogawa Sea World in Kamogawa, Chiba Prefecture, on March 13 and asked for help regarding larger sea creatures.

Kazutoshi Arai, director of Kamogawa Sea World, soon found aquariums and zoos willing to accept them in the Kanto region.

Arai's aquarium took on a spotted seal, two walruses and a sea lion.

Another spotted seal went to Enoshima Aquarium in Fujisawa, Kanagawa Prefecture, while two sea lions took refuge at Izu Mito Sea Paradise in Numazu, Shizuoka Prefecture.

The marine animals were moved from March 16. Ueno Zoological Gardens obtained emergency permits from the Environment Ministry for some endangered species, whose transportation was restricted under law.

Kurara, the female spotted seal at Kamogawa Sea World, gave birth on April 7.

Aquarium workers were initially worried because the animal did not eat. But it gradually regained its appetite.

Its male partner, Yukina, taken to Enoshima Aquarium, ate for the first time on March 22 after workers continued feeding attempts.

When the aquarium reported the news on Twitter, the posting received more than 100 responses.

At Aquamarine Fukushima, electricity was restored March 31, and officials have been checking electrical equipment and conducting other recovery work.

"Aquamarine is all right," director Yoshitaka Abe said. "We will

Please Read The Full Story朝日新聞社):Zoos, aquariums find friends in time of need in disaster - English


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