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Euthanasia of a Chinese Sturgeon


Ocean Park is saddened to announce the euthanasia of a captive bred Chinese sturgeon today due to an untreatable bacterial infection that had affected several internal organs including its liver.  The sturgeon was irreversibly ill and was euthanized today after failing to respond to medical treatment and supportive care.
Dr. Lee Foo Khong, Veterinarian of Ocean Park, said, “The sturgeon had been receiving treatment since February 2016. However it failed to respond to treatment and its condition deteriorated. After reviewing all options, both the Yangtze River Fisheries Institute (YRFI) and the Ocean Park veterinary team decided that ongoing treatment, including extraction of abdominal fluid and injection of medications, would not be consistent with maintaining positive animal welfare.  The decision to euthanize is also consistent with the approved euthanasia policy of the Park and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.”
Ms. Suzanne Gendron, Executive Director of Zoological Operations and Education, said, “Whilst we have not been able to isolate mycobacteria as the causative bacterium affecting this fish, it is ubiquitous in the air, water and even soil.  Over the past two years, three sturgeons have been lost due to mycobacterium infections. Our veterinarians and laboratory staff are working collaboratively with research personnel from the YRFI to study the etiology of the disease process.  Advancing this research together with the husbandry programmes is helping the YRFI increase survivorship of the greater population under its care. While mycobacterial infections are often non-responsive to the treatments currently available, our veterinary and animal care teams have focused on the sturgeon’s welfare, with all decisions made with careful deliberation and in the best interest of animal welfare.”
Professor Wei Qiwei of the Yangtze River Fisheries Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences, said, “While we are all saddened by the loss of this sturgeon, the Yangtze River Fisheries Institute and Ocean Park shall continue our close collaboration on enhancing the captive husbandry and conservation of Chinese sturgeons.”
Ocean Park’s Chinese Sturgeon Aquarium - Yangtze Exploration is currently raising 12 captive bred sturgeons under the research collaboration with the YRFI and all are continuing to eat well.  The Park has liaised with the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, Ministry of Agriculture of the People’s Republic of China, Beijing Aquarium and the Yangtze River Fisheries Institute throughout the period, sharing its experience and understanding how other facilities manage similar cases in other regions of China.
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Information concerning the Chinese Sturgeon
  • The Chinese Sturgeon has recently been extirpated from the upper reaches of the Yangtze River, above the Three Gorges dam, and currently occurs in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River and close to shore in the Yellow and East China Sea (The Changjiang Aquatic Resources Survey Group 1988, Chen 2008).
  • In 1983, the Yangtze River Fisheries Institute (YRFI) artificially spawned this species (Fu et al. 1985). From 1983 to 2007, over 9 million sturgeons (including larvae) were released into the Yangtze River to increase the stock (Xiao et al. 1999, Chen 2007).
  • An ex-situ conservation breeding programme designed to rear and breed this species in captivity is regarded as the only assured way to prevent its extinction from the wild.