Atlantis defends whale shark action

Posted: 05/11/2012 in all marine news

7 days in Dubai – 

A top marine expert at Dubai’s Atlantis hotel has spoken openly about the fate of the rare whale shark that was kept at its aquarium and caused an international wave of protest from campaigners.

Speaking during a weekend of activities geared to educate the public about conservation of sharks, marine sciences vice president Steve Kaiser told 7DAYS: “I genuinely believe she did really, really, well.”

The 4m-long female shark was on view to visitors at the aquarium from August 2008 until March 2010.

The Atlantis team was accused of “detaining” it by animal rights groups, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

When it was eventually released, the shark was fitted with a tracking tag, but the tag dropped off just a few weeks before she left the Arabian Gulf and her fate remains unknown.

Kaiser told 7DAYS: “Both myself and the staff were very privileged to rescue and rehabilitate the whale shark and send her back to the wild.

“She was found in a very shallow, salty, hot lagoon off Jebel Ali. We got a call asking if we could rescue her. “We found her lying on the bottom.”

The Atlantis team took the shark to its massive salt-water aquarium at the hotel on Palm Jumeirah.

Kaiser, who has been involved in the first-ever births of Black-Nose and Caribbean Reef Sharks in a man-made environment, said the team then nursed the rescued whale shark back to health.

He added: “We released her back in a better condition than she was found.” Kaiser admits that Atlantis received a lot of criticism, adding: “I think we did get a lot of bad press, but basically we did what we said we were going to do, so I don’t know what the criticism was all about.

“Having the shark here was the highlight of my career, being able to help an animal like a whale shark! I should just have retired there and then having achieved that.”

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