On the afternoon of our third day in Hokkaido, we travelled to the Nixe Marine Park. This park features a European styled castle as its main attraction, complete with a bridge and moat.
Inside the castle was their aquarium, and I thought the most interesting part about this aquarium was their touch pools. In addition to having the usual animals (sea stars, urchins, cucumbers, etc.), this aquarium also had a stingray and dogfish touch pool, and a horseshoe crab touch pool. I thought horseshoe crabs were supposed to be a protected species?! It was quite neat to get the chance to touch a living fossil though, even though I think those animals probably get quite stressed out.
The park offers sea lion shows, penguin marches, and dolphin shows. We didn’t feel like watching the sea lion one so we wandered around the aquarium until it was time for the penguin one. We all gathered around outside the aquarium while a trainer walked 5 penguins down the street. There was 1 male, and 4 females following closely behind. The male was so proud and held his head really high! What an adorable sight to see. The penguins walked around waddling and shaking their fat bottoms. Grandma loves penguins and that was her favourite part of the whole day!
After the penguin march, we watched the dolphin show. The dolphins were really smart and performed numerous tricks like swimming around the tank really fast, hitting a big beach ball with their flippers, and waving “bye bye” with their flippers and fins.
I think it’s cute when these animals perform, but at the same time it’s also quite sad. They are performing for our pleasure, and they’re kept captive for our entertainment. After taking an animal welfare course back in university, I have mixed feelings about zoos and aquariums. On one hand, it’s more than entertainment now, as there is now educational outreach involved as well. On the other hand, certain animals are captured from the wild, which leads to diminishing populations and a concern in terms of conservation. I just hope that most places have good regulations in place to avoid or minimize the impact of these concerns!