This post is in reference to Joe Lai's post, Embracing Nature Conservation: How?.
Dave Santucci wrote a short article about the inspirational powers of being in close contact with animals. I won't disagree with him. As someone who is out in the field relatively often, I know how it feels to be up-close and personal with members of other species, be they crocodiles or platyhelminthes.
However, to have to hold animals captive in an area that isn't even 0.1% of their original range is a different thing altogether. If done on humans, it is called unlawful confinement, except in mental asylums and prisons, because they are considered the lower end of society. Mr. Santucci has assumed that humans are different, are on a higher level. Isn't that being elitist?
People still have not understood the difference between appreciating the whale sharks and dolphins for their presence in the wild, and appreciating whale sharks and dolphins as toys. What the aquariums possibly promote is appreciation of the animals as toys. We make them do tricks, and ride them like the kiddy machines that mothers put 50cents into to keep their kids entertained for two minutes. If someone forced another person to learn and perform tricks on command, it's called forced labour and violation of human rights.
While I have mentioned that I am continually inspired by contacts I make with wildlife while doing field work, my love for nature, and wildlife came from reading, fighting spiders and catching grasshoppers as a kid, and unlike what Mr. Santucci would like to believe, from the television. Has he wondered why we use the term “wildlife”? These are majestic creatures born to be wild, free, away from urban, human organisation and oppression. Appreciation of nature must come through responsible education, not education “by hook or by crook”. When we want to learn French (or whatever) culture and language, we do a French immersion programme. We don't go to France and kidnap a Frenchman. The same principle applies to the Whale Sharks.