Investigation launched after 200 animals die at aquarium

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A public aquarium in the U.S. is under investigation after a so-called 'death log' of marine animals was leaked to the press.

According to the log, which was leaked to The Oregonian by a former employee, more than 200 animals died at the Portland Aquarium in Milwaukie, Oregon, in a three-month period.

The dead include bamboo sharks, seahorses, garden eels and a number of other varieties of fish, plus crabs and sea stars.

The handwritten log records deaths at the aquarium from February to May, along with the suspected causes of death. These include starvation, loss of power, being attacked by other animals, infection and becoming "stuck to drain screen".

The Aquarium's owners admit that during the period covered by the log its marine animals were without regular veterinary services.

Veterinarian Mike Corcoran, who worked under contract for the Aquarium quit in February over what he says were concerns about animal welfare.

Corcoran told The Oregonian that his advice was repeatedly ignored. He said the number of deaths was "excessive" and there were occasions when animals had to wait too long to be quarantined or for emergency procedures. "I feel those animals were subject to undue pain and suffering to save money," he said.

The Aquarium's co-owner, Vince Covino, called the death log 'fictitious' and denied that the death toll was higher than at other aquariums. He said such claims were: "defamatory to our highly qualified team of marine biologists, who do an excellent job of caring for our animals."

Portland Aquarium opened in December 2012 and has more than 3,000 animals on display.

The Oregon Humane Society has opened an investigation.

Earlier this year Ammon Covino, co-owner of the Portland Aquarium and brother to Vince, was charged with one count of conspiracy and four counts of unlawful sale or purchase of marine animals in a Florida court. He is accused of buying several Eagle rays and two Lemon sharks without proper permits and transporting them to the Idaho Aquarium, also run by the Covino brothers. Ammon initially pleaded not guilty to the charge, but has recently changed his plea to guilty.

Covino's nephew, Peter C. Covino IV, was found guilty of obstruction of justice in the purchase of the Florida animals after he asked the business to destroy evidence relating to their sale - he faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The Covino brothers are scheduled to open another aquarium in Austin, Texas later this year, but The University of Texas has now put its potential partnership with the new aquarium on hold.

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