An animal rights group has accused an aquarium in Taiwan of endangering the life of a six-metre Whale shark during its release earlier this month.
The National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium in Pintung is Taiwan's largest aquarium. The shark has been held there in a 33 x 22 x 12 m deep display tank for the past eight years and the Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan (EAST) had campaigned for its release saying the tank was too small.
The shark was finally released on July 10, but it became stranded twice before it was towed out to sea.
The shark suffered a number of injuries during the process and it's unclear whether it actually survived after it was released.
EAST said the location chosen to release the shark was too close to the shore. Its Chief Executive Officer Chu Tseng-hung said: "What the aquarium did was not release the Whale shark; the aquarium actually abandoned the shark.
"The aquarium did not have any back-up plans when the Whale shark was stranded on the shore and from the video documenting the release process, the staff even attempted to move the Whale shark, which weighed 3,600 kilograms, with their hands.
Chu added that staff ignored the injuries the shark suffered from the failed release attempt, and dragged it to the sea when it had stopped struggling, lying on its back.
EAST said the aquarium should not capture any more whale sharks and should try to improve its wildlife management, including the way it releases marine animals.
Wang Wei-hsien, the head of The National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium, said the shark's release had been carefully planned and rehearsed many times.
"We tried our best to protect the shark," he said. "It just didn't occur to us that it would refuse to swim away but rather would linger near the shore."
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