Aquarium owner: ‘Death log’ is a fake

MILWAUKIE, Ore. (KOIN) — The troubled Portland Aquarium is under investigation again.

A “death log” claims hundreds of animals have died at the Milwaukie facility there since it opened, many of whom may have starved.

The Portland Aquarium opened in December 2012 with 30 exhibits, and more than 2,000 species.

“We love it, my boys are always begging to come back,” said aquarium member Marsha Bartels. “It’s wonderful.”

8-19-13-death log
Pages from a “death log” claimed to be from the Portland Aquarium’s Milwaukie, Ore., facility. (As seen on KOIN 6 News)

But that’s not what some former employees say, including one who leaked the so-called death log. It shows more than 200 animals died between February and May of this year, including sharks, sea horses and eels.

The Oregon Humane Society, which has police authority, has launched an investigation.

“We’ll gather evidence, talk to witnesses, create reports and work with the district attorney as the case warrants,” said David Lytle with the Oregon Humane Society.

Several former employees quit over what they say was mistreatment of the marine animals, including starvation, infection,  improper quarantines and inadequate veterinary care.

“I left because there was a trend of mistreatment of the animals in ways that could be prevented,” said ex-employee Carolyn Emch-Wei, a marine biologist. “…I was feeling worse and worse about it.”

KOIN 6 News contacted Portland Aquarium owner Vince Covino, who lives in Idaho, by phone. He said this death log is, in his words, “fictitious” — fabricated by an employee who was laid off.

He also said that “it is defamatory to our highly qualified team of marine biologists, who do an excellent job of caring for our animals.”

The Oregon Humane Society wouldn’t comment on the specifics of the investigation, or how long its investigation will take. If it finds that animals were mistreated, it’s up to the district attorney to determine penalties.

Aquarium goers such as Marsha Bartels hope for the best: “If it’s the case I feel sad; I hope it’s not happening,” she said. “From what we’ve seen it doesn’t seem that way.”

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