Japan theme park freezes 5,000 sea creatures in skating rink

Photo: Twitter screengrab

Would you like to skate over a frozen aquarium with 5,000 marine animals?

One theme park in Japan thought that it was a brilliant enough idea to execute - only to have its head on the chopping block.

Space World, a theme park in Kitakyushu City, Fukuoka, launched the "Aquarium of Ice" event on Nov 12 to educate visitors about marine life, Rocketnews wrote.

It may have been billed as the world's first skating rink of its kind, but the onslaught of criticism may have also made it the last.

The park's existing ice skating rink was modified and frozen over to house 5,000 sea creatures. Visitors get to skate over photos of whale sharks, stingrays and real marine animals like shellfish, crabs and clams.

When pre-event photos were posted online on Oct 26, netizens were quick to condemn the event as inappropriate.

Photos showing fish jutting out of the ice and some with curious spots of blood drew cries of animal abuse.

According to Tokyoreporter, the park was also slammed for an insensitive caption for a photo of a half-frozen fish. The caption read: "I'm d..d..drowning…It h…h..hurts…"

Educational? It seems like irony is wasted on the folks behind this. 

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The Facebook post and photos have since been taken down. Space World has also apologised for the comment.

In their defence, park officials clarified that the fish were provided by fishmongers who were aware of the project's intentions. The attraction is educational, and is accompanied with explanations about the fish on display.

They added: "Many of these fish don't meet standards for selling to customers. And the big fish like whale sharks, sharks, and rays aren't real, they're simply photos that were blown up and embedded in the ice."

Despite the negative reception, there are currently no plans to close the attraction. Officials have appealed to the public to visit the attraction to "understand the intention of this project."

They have even proposed to hold a memorial service for the frozen fish.

Although, how this would be a positive turnaround, remains to be seen.

Animal treatment in theme parks have been in the spotlight for years now, especially when the crackdown in Thailand's famous Kanchanaburi Tiger Temple in April 2015 revealed brutal abuse.

According to World Animal Protection, there are at least 550,000 wild animals suffering in irresponsible tourist attractions worldwide.

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"Some venues have better welfare for animals than others, but often the cruelty happens either behind the scenes, or early in an animal's life in brutal 'training' to force it to accept human control," World Animal Protection Australia head of campaigns Nicola Beynon told The Star.

"Do not contribute to an industry that takes animals from the wild or treats them cruelly. There are better ways to experience animals - in the wild, where they belong," she said.

debwong@sph.com.sg

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