WEM Cares

WEM participates in the Species Survival Plan to help ensure the survival of marine birds through breeding management.

WEM is also an accredited member of the Canadian Accredited Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA), which is a member of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). West Edmonton Mall is also a member of the National Marine Educators Association (NMEA).


Why do we have animals? 

Every animal species has a story that needs to be told whether the animal is critically endangered or the animal has the role of the Ambassador for its species in the world. West Edmonton Mall’s  Marine Life is able to  enrich, engage and reconnect people with nature and to inspire a conservation action.  Marine Life has the ability to reach out to non-traditional zoo audiences through our exhibits and our animal programs, bringing vital information about animals,  their stories and what we can do help them and our world.   We are committed to providing educational and conservation programs that enhance the experience of our guests by enriching their knowledge, encouraging respect and responsible management of all living creatures.
The aim of zoos and aquariums is to protect and conserve wildlife and to raise awareness to the plights that many species around the world are currently facing. As such, zoos and aquariums often take in rescued or injured animals, or house animals that have been bred under human care, to avoid reducing wild populations any more than they are already being reduced by human interaction.
We are committed to providing educational and conservation programs that enhance the experience of our guests by enriching their knowledge, encouraging respect and responsible management of all living creatures
We care for the animals at Marine Life at West Edmonton Mall for a variety of reasons. We offer a safe and healthy habitat to many rescued animals. Some of these animals were pets, some were smuggled illegally into Canada, and some were found abandoned. These animals now have a Forever Home at Marine Life and can help us to educate people about a wide variety of important topics from responsible pet ownership to action steps that will help our stressed planet.
Other animals are cared for in Marine Life participate in conservation efforts to save their species from extinction. We participate in Species Survival Plans, which allows us to transfer animals between other accredited zoos and breed them. This is a safeguard for these species. This way if a species goes extinct in the wild, there is still a viable population in zoos.
We are here to inspire change. We offer a fun and unique experience to families, school groups, and non-typical zoo audiences. Through these moving encounters we are able to teach people about the natural world and respect for living creatures.

How are they cared for? 

As members of Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA) we strive to offer our animals the top level care, husbandry and nutrition that is available. The care of our animals is carefully recorded so that every interaction, whether it be a training session, food offered or enrichment given, is able to be recalled and discussed, and continuity to animal care is kept intact.
A typical day of animal care at Marine Life starts at 7:30 am, when staff come in to prepare all the diets for all the animals. These diets are separated and weighed for every individual animal. The diets consists of a variety of foods, to ensure complete nutritional needs are being met, and are specific to each animal. Diets are closely monitored and adjusted as the animal’s’ appetites increase or decrease due to changing body cycles or seasonal changes.
After the food has been prepared, staff begin to do husbandry with our animals. A daily physical examination happens in the morning, before any animal is used for a presentation or  program, and at the end of the day before staff go home. The findings of these examinations are recorded, and if any significant discoveries are made, adequate steps are taken to remedy them. Additionally, for many of our animals, such as our sea lions, penguins and sea turtles, the husbandry needs extend much further than simple body check-overs, and include training sessions which have allowed us to perform complex husbandry behaviours with our animals such as brushing the sea lions’ teeth, applying medicated ointment to the feet of our birds, or scrubbing the shells of our sea turtles.
Every exhibit, be it land or water based, that our animals live in, is closely monitored for things like temperature and humidity, fecal matter, and overall cleanliness
All of our water-based exhibits have multi-layer filtration systems to ensure the proper circulation and chemistry of the water, and cleanliness of the water, as well other necessary parameters are checked on a daily and weekly basis.
Part of the care of our animals involves regular inspections of our facility by governing bodies such as the CAZA, Fish and Wildlife and SCPA.
Marine Life at West Edmonton Mall offers complex, multi-faceted care for our animals. We are accredited by Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums [CAZA]. This means that we focus on the most up-to-date, scientifically sound nutrition, housing, enrichment, and veterinary standards for each species. This way we are able to ensure all of our animals have a high-quality life at Marine Life.
We have a team of veterinarians, animal health technicians, curators, and animal care staff dedicated to animal management, training, enrichment, exhibit design, health care, and all other needs of our animals. Every day our animals are checked over head-to-tail to ensure they are healthy. Our animal care staff also participate in training programs with our animals. This training is not simply for entertainment. Animals are taught behaviours that allow us to do in-depth medical checkups, such as x-rays and ultrasounds as well as behaviours that offer the animal’s mental stimulation. We use a type of training known as Operant Conditioning using positive reinforcement.  Positive reinforcement may be food but it may also be something else they like such as a toy. If the animal doesn’t do what we ask, that is totally fine! We simply move on to something the animal does want to do. We never punish an animal in any way and we do not withhold food. The animal will always get their whole daily diet even if they do not participate in a show or program that day. Like any training, the key is to make it positive and exciting for the animals. By making it rewarding, the animals choose to participate and this allows us to take excellent care of them. 

Can they be released into the wild?

Our animals that have been born under human care have been cared for their entire lives and have never been "wild" and would probably not know how to survive when set free in their own natural environment. 
As such, zoos and aquariums often take in rescued or injured animals, or house animals that have been bred under human care, to avoid reducing wild populations any more than they are already being reduced by human interaction.
What this means is that the animals that live at Marine life have either come from rescue centres, private donations or were actively bred in other zoos or aquariums. As such, these animals have formed bonds (human imprinting) with their caretakers that would make their chances of survival in the wild low.
There are several reasons for this:

  • These animals have regulated diets, provided for them by their keepers, the introduction of new pathogens or bacteria into their bodies would be harmful, as they have not built up an immunity the way wild populations have.
  • These animals have never encountered predators, the natural curiosity they have developed toward new stimuli may cause them to have slow reaction times to dangerous situations.
  • Our animals have regular, monitored contact with humans, their release into the wild would likely result in them seeking out human populations to further interact with, which could endanger them.
  • Some our animals that came from rescue situations have ongoing medical issues, to release them could potentially be to their ultimate detriment.

Many of the wild populations of the animals we house are currently facing a variety of man made threats, and as such, their numbers in the wild are decreasing. The aim of conservation is to ensure the longevity of the species we currently have. To release animals into unstable or declining environmental conditions would also be to their detriment.
Some of our animals, are registered with an international conservation-focussed breeding program called an SSP or Species Survival Plan. These animals’ offspring are to maintain a strong genetic gene pool for the potential of reintroduction to the wild at a time when it may be needed , but only when the conditions for their survival are optimal. One example is our African Black-footed penguins, whose wild populations have decreased by 97% in the last 100 years, and have still not stabilized. If the wild African penguin population doesn’t begin to rebound, or at the very least stabilize, the chicks or great-grandchicks of the penguins we care for could be considered for reintroduction, to bring fresh genetics back to wild populations to avoid extinction.