News / Vancouver

'We don't do shows and we never have': Vancouver Aquarium CEO

Visitors to the Vancouver Aquarium might beg to disagree, however, particularly since the facility advertises a "Beluga Show" prominently on its website.


The Vancouver Aquarium's CEO is back on the interview circuit Thursday, after the Vancouver Park Board released its draft plan for ending the captivity of cetaceans — whales, dolphins and porpoises — at the Stanley Park facility.

John Nightingale condemned the elected Board's move to end the animals' presence in the aquarium, saying it puts the institution's rescue and research in jeopardy. He denied point blank that there are any "shows" in which the public watches the cetaceans perform.

Speaking on CBC radio's The Early Edition on Thursday, host Rick Cluff asked Nightingale about the porpoise, dolphin and false killer whale currently living in the aquarium.

"They will remain there, but the Park Board says not to be part of any performances," Cluff said.

"We don't do shows and we never have," Nightingale replied, "in the sense that many people have in their mind of having seen one in California or someplace else."

Visitors to the Vancouver Aquarium might beg to disagree, however, particularly since the facility advertises a "Beluga Show" prominently on its website, and a link to "Check the show schedule."

Screenshot from the Vancouver Aquarium


Screenshot from the Vancouver Aquarium "Beluga Show" web page.

The site explained, however, that the "beluga shows are based on behaviours that belugas do naturally in the wild," and that they are exercises to " keep them stimulated and healthy."

But others point out the "splash zone" warnings painted on the front row visitor seats, and MC's warning to those rows before the "shows" begin.

Others on social media might now however be so convinced by Nightingale's statement that Aquarium staff "don't do shows and we never have."

Even singer Michael Bublé tweeted about the beluga show, where he was able to touch one of the whales during a 2015 performance.

"Today I did my first Vulcan mind meld with a beluga whale," Bublé tweeted. "Thanks!! — at Vancouver Aquarium."

Nightingale explained that what people might think are shows are in fact just "behavioural demonstrations" and the audience happen to be "standing there watching."

"We do feed them, we do train them every day — of course, you have to to take care of them — we do exercise them," he told Cluff. "Things that all animals including humans need, we do that every day, and when you do that you have people watching.

"And so we explain to people what we're doing, why the animal needs that, we often talk about that animal living in the wild, why it's shaped that way, why it has these characteristics or skills. We've never done shows. And the behavioural demonstrations and the taining sessions that we do, we do interpret for the public because they're standing there watching."

Nightingale also repeated his previous statements that one possibility for what toxin killed two belugas who died in the facility was that they were "maliciously" poisoned.

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