SINGAPORE, May 16, 2009 (AFP) - A Singapore casino developer said Saturday it was considering alternatives to its plan to exhibit whale sharks, the world's largest fish, which had run into strong opposition from animal welfare groups.
"We have started to explore plans for an alternative to a whale shark exhibit," Krist Boo, the spokeswoman for Resorts World at Sentosa, told AFP.
Resorts World at Sentosa, one of two casino resorts being built in Singapore, had planned to import the whale sharks for its Marine Life Park (MLP) which set to become the world's biggest oceanarium upon completion.
The park however said its move was not due to pressure by the seven animal welfare groups which have launched an online petition that has gathered more than 9,000 signatures.
"The MLP team does not take its responsibilities to both conservation and Singapore lightly and as such, we spent the past two years doing much groundwork," it said in a statement to AFP.
"We strongly believe that our action must be governed by the conservation of this species rather than what is dictated by fleeting public opinion."
Alternative options to the whale shark exhibit being considered by the MLP were shown to the various animal welfare groups last month, it said.
"This proposal is still in the process of being refined for a further round of review," the MLP said.
Any changes to the planned whale shark exhibit would have to get the final approval of the Singapore government.
Animal welfare groups welcomed the move by Resorts World at Sentosa to consider alternatives to exhibiting whale sharks, which can reach lengths of 12 metres (40 feet) or the size of a bus.
"I think it's very progressive in that they are considering other alternatives," said Louis Ng, executive director and founder of the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society group.
Jaki Teo, the campaign coordinator behind the online petition (www.whalesharkpetition.com), hoped the authorities would consider the concerns raised by animal welfare groups about the whale sharks.
"A lot of the concerns are about the fact that they are not suited to be held in captivity," she said.
Resorts World at Sentosa is scheduled to open in phases starting from early 2010 and will feature the world's biggest oceanarium with 700,000 fish.