Vol. 1, Issue 22, October 14, 2003
Sharks Not Cooperating At National Aquarium
After months of frustration and obstacles, the National Aquarium in Baltimore is once again postponing the debut of its new shark show, originally scheduled for October 18.
"As Maryland's leading tourist attraction, we have a responsibility to maintain the highest standards of animal husbandry and professionalism," said David Pittenger, executive director of the Aquarium's Senior Management Council. "We are just not satisfied that the new shark show can be safely conducted within those standards at the present time."
The Aquarium has long been known for its dolphin show, an educational show in which trained dolphins perform a variety of tricks with Aquarium staff. It also has periodic theme exhibits; the current special attraction is entitled "Shark Quest," highlighting the Aquarium's collection of sharks and adding various related supplemental educational exhibits. The exhibit has been a success, but Aquarium management wanted to bring the shark exhibit "to the next level" and build on the existing dolphin show.
"It seemed like a good idea at the time," said veteran dolphin handler Marcie Stark. "But, you know, the sharks aren't exactly cooperating."
Despite months of training, the sand tiger and hammerhead sharks enlisted for the special show have failed to demonstrate any comprehension of the program whatsoever.
"Initially, we were going to use the sharks and dolphins together," said Stark. "But the hammerhead tried to eat a dolphin and then the dolphins ganged up on the shark and it got pretty messy, you know? Not something for kids."
Trainers have been working to get the sharks to perform simple tasks such as swimming around the pool, ringing a bell, and allowing handlers to pet their heads. The surviving trainers are apparently not sure why the sharks aren't learning the routines.
"Well, they are probably having problems because sharks are really stupid," said noted marine biologist Evan DeCourcelles. "Really, really stupid. Morons, actually. They don't need to think; swim, bite, swallow, that's pretty much all they do. Why on earth would these people think they could teach a shark to perform tricks like a dolphin, which is one of the brightest creatures known?"
Pittenger acknowledged that the idea had been raised by members of the Board of Governors who are not marine biology experts.
"Just because they look similar does not mean they are capable of the same things," said Stark as she adjusted her prosthetic hand. "If the new shock collars don't work, I swear I'm outta here."