Thursday, August 23, 2018

The Forever Home for Goldfish

This photo taken on August 17, 2018 shows abandoned goldfish displayed at the Aquarium de Paris in Paris, France. AFP photo

The Aquarium de Paris in France has created a refuge for goldfish, providing them with a second lease of life. 

When owners get tired of their pet goldfish, the rejected pets may just end up being flushed down the toilet.  

And that is an act of cruelty. 

The cold will likely shock the fish and the chlorine will burn their gills. Few, if any fish would be able to survive in the sewer. Therefore, flushing a live fish down the toilet brings almost certain death. 

Now, Paris's biggest aquarium located opposite the iconic Eiffel Tower allows the city's residents to drop off their fish – their numbers swelling around the time of the long summer holidays. 

These fish are given a full medical check-up involving antibiotics and anti-parasite treatments. And after a month in quarantine, they are then released into a giant tank where they go on public display. 

Since the service started two years ago, the goldfish rescue service has been used by about fifty people a month and the tank now is said to contain about 600 specimens, mostly the classic golden-red version, as well as striped and black ones. 

Rather than spending all day banging into the glass of a small fishbowl – here the fish have space to swim and plenty of company, allowing them to socialize and move around in groups. 

Some owners hand over their pets tearfully, motivated by concern for their fish, while others appear relieved to be rid of them and the routines of feeding and cleaning. 

Once in the bigger tank, some of the fish undergo a remarkable transformation. Being confined in a bowl stunts their growth, but the bigger space means some of them will expand to full adult size. 

“They can reach up to 20-30 centimeters (8-12 inches)”, said Celine Bezault, who cares for the fish at the giant aquarium complex. 

And for Alexis Powilewicz, director of the Aquarium, the service is part of efforts to promote awareness about animal welfare. 

Goldfish (Scientific name: Carassius auratus) are domesticated forms of wild carp originally found in east Asia and the practice of keeping them in bowls has existed for hundreds of years. It is thought to have originated in China. 

The animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has long campaigned against keeping goldfish in bowls or giving away fish in plastic bags as prizes at funfairs. 

In 2004, the Italian town of Monza made headlines when it banned putting goldfish in bowls, while Switzerland has animal rights legislation that makes flushing a fish down the toilet illegal. 

For those who dispose of their pets in ponds or rivers, scientific studies have found that some goldfish thrive afterwards – but at a cost to the local ecosystem because the fish are an invasive non-native species. 

In 2015, officials in the western Canadian province of Alberta launched a “Don’t Let it Loose” campaign, pleading with locals to stop releasing goldfish into the waterways. 

The fish disposal service available at the Aquarium de Paris is aimed at offering an ethical alternative. 

And animal rights activists are full of praise and hoping that other aquariums will follow its example and give goldfish a second chance.

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