People-watching at Shedd Aquarium over the weekend raised some questions about how we experience life nowadays. It also brought up the subject of protecting wildlife.
The aquarium was teeming with children and their camera-toting parents. At each tank, people would snap a photo and walk along. But did they take a look without the lens? I really hope so, because there’s a lot to see.
A blue lobster. A more than 80-year-old lungfish. Sharks. Clownfish. Penguins. The aquarium is home to more than 32,000 animals. You can easily spend an entire day there; we got there about 10 a.m. and left around 3 p.m. We did everything except the Stingray Touch experience and the Spongebob Squarepants 4-D movie. (We loved the Sea Monsters show, though.)
I’m not immune to the impulse to put everything we see in pixels. I took plenty of photos. But I also really observed and admired the sealife. I loved spending the day with Graham. I’ll share some of those memories here.
One of the highlights for me was seeing the turtles from around the world. I also liked hearing about the instances in which some of the animals were saved. Nickel is a turtle who is housed in the Caribbean Reef tank. He suffered an injury when he was hit by a boat and can no longer live in the wild. The back of his shell seems to want to float at the surface, which hinders his swimming. And the show hosts often repeated the story of Cruz, the blind sea lion who was rescued in California.
A serious note
When we walked up to the aquarium we noticed protesters against the capture of whales and dolphins. Their signs reminded us that “The Demand Stops with You.” I recalled the movie “Blackfish” and wondered if we are part of the problem. To be honest, I didn’t go to the aquarium to see the aquatic show (which also has a penguin and a dog). In fact, I found the show underwhelming. I had a much better time viewing everything else. The aquarium would have plenty to see and do without a whale show. I wasn’t aware of the beluga whales being captured for the aquarium and I haven’t found much information about it. I tried to find something written about the subject on the Chicago Tribune website and haven’t seen anything written since 2012. An article in the New York Times noted opposition to the import of 18 beluga whales in October 2012; Shedd Aquarium was set to be one of the destinations for those whales. The centers I’m sure would defend the action by saying that it is needed to introduce diversity into the captured whale population. I don’t have the answer to the problem, but it would benefit all of us to become more aware of how our actions affect wildlife and our planet.