It has been a complicated year, the entire Loro Parque group, including Poema del Mar, has had to close its doors to safeguard the health of visitors and workers. How have you experienced these long months inside the aquarium?
Indeed, to safeguard the health of workers and visitors, Poema del Mar was forced to close its doors on 15 March, as was the case with the rest of the group's facilities. It has been, it is and it will be a very difficult period, above all because it is a pity that we cannot open our doors to a public that is eager to see our animals again.
However, for the whole team of biologists in charge of the direct care of the animals and for the technical team in charge of the maintenance of the facilities, there has been no change in routine since, evidently, the fish and the animals do not know about this situation, but require their care and attention 365 days a year, whatever happens.
It is good for us that life goes on. Because we are lucky that our work remains the same, that we can continue to see our animals healthy and that we even participate in events that are an achievement for science and biology, such as the birth of the leafy sea dragons.
For the company's president, Mr Kiessling, the health of the animals comes first. He has made that clear since the beginning of the pandemic by ensuring food and making sure we all stay healthy so we can continue to care for the animals. The sad side of all this is that we cannot open to the public at the moment.
One of the things that most worried the regular visitors was that the marine world they have in Poema del Mar was in perfect condition, something that is assured since they have not stopped working at any time. Is that true?
Indeed, we have not stopped. It is funny to meet friends and family who say that they have faced this time of pandemic with confinement included, since we have not had a single day of confinement, we have not stopped going to work while there was no one on the streets.
We have experienced this situation from a totally different perspective.
There is no doubt that Poema del Mar is a wonderful experience that brings the marine world closer to all those who want to see it up close, but we cannot forget the great work of conservation and research that is done here. Perhaps this is one of the most important parts, more so for you who are the technical director and curator...
This is undoubtedly intrinsic to our work, i.e. an important part of our work consists of understanding the biology of each species and its conservation, and we must also try to ensure that this knowledge can be applied in the natural environment. It is part of our work that what is learned with the animals in captivity is then used to help us take care of them in the wild, which is a very important task.
In fact, we are constantly involved in work with animals in nature thanks to the knowledge we have of the animals under human care.
You also do a great job of education and raising awareness with children which is very important. What can you tell us about this?
Yes, for 2020 all places for schools on the island were fully booked, because we like to share with them, with their enthusiasm and their capacity to surprise. It is important to share with the new generations what we enjoy and what we consider to be the basis for the care of our planet.
What do visitors find when they go to Poema del Mar?
Our tour is a journey of life connected to the element of water, starting with a trip through the area of South America, going through the jungles, different freshwater courses and how that fresh water leads to and ends up in the oceans. It is a journey in which we accompany the water in its natural cycle.
It is a little bit the perspective of the different ecosystems, all connected to water.
What kind of unique and rare species can be found in Poema del Mar?
There are numerous species, it is worth noting that in Poema del Mar we have more than 450 species of animals, with 30,000 living beings no more and no less, which we look after every day.
We have many peculiar species, recently the sea dragons have taken much prominence, as they are an endemic species of Australia that requires very special care, because they are very delicate animals. I highlight the presence of this species but I could name many others of fresh water, for example, we have chameleons, land turtles, different species of amphibians, seahorses, fish characteristic for their camouflage or for their poison...
There is a wide variety of interesting animals to see in Poema del Mar.
Poema del Mar is the first European aquarium capable of reproducing the Australian sea dragon, as we have mentioned, but what added value does this give the aquarium?
For one thing, it is a faithful reflection of the daily work we do. The care of these animals is very specific, they require a special type of food to be given daily, live food, for example. Any modification, however slight, to the quality of the water or stress caused by taking flash photos or knocking on the acrylic can be very disturbing for them. Sometimes the visitor may not be aware of this.
They are also animals that require veterinary care. If we detect any symptoms that the animal is not well, we proceed to a check-up.
This is a task that we carry out as a team, from the person who looks after the water, through the person who provides the specific food, to the veterinarian.
I imagine that in order to take care of such delicate species and countless animals it is necessary for the whole team to have extraordinary training. In that, to put it colloquially, you "go the extra mile", don't you?
Exactly, the truth is that our profession requires a lot of knowledge but I would say that the experience that has accompanied me throughout these years has given me passion in our work. There must be passion in this work because in the end you are sacrificing a lot of time. When people don't go to work, we must go, when an animal gets sick, we must stay with it, like a mother does with her child. Knowledge is acquired with training and experience, we can train a person who doesn't know about jellyfish, but the passionate side has to come intrinsic to the person.
From your point of view as a specialist, what distinguishes Poema del Mar from other aquariums in Europe or the world? What is so special about it?
The truth is that this is a tour on 12,000 square meters, in a very peculiar building from an architectural point of view, in which the wonder of nature is represented, despite being inside, from the jungle to the ocean.
We have the largest curved window in an aquarium in the world, called acrylic. This makes Poema del Mar unique. We have over five million litres of salt water in our main tank, where numerous species of sharks and rays live.
We provide the amazing opportunity to enjoy numerous species from the Indian Ocean, the Pacific, the Atlantic and the Red Sea. In addition to animals of other species such as reptiles and amphibians.
Do you have any interesting projects you are working on now or in the medium term?
Yes, the truth is that we try to innovate. I cannot reveal much about what we are doing but I can comment that, from animal life, we know that it did not start with the animals that we have among us today but that prehistorically there were other animals that inhabited the earth and Poema del Mar wanted to take a step back in the history of biology.
We are going to present how the animals that we have today among us have evolved from the evolution of past species. This is a project we are working on today.
To conclude, are you looking forward to receiving thousands of smiles again in your facilities?
We really look forward to it and miss being able to share the wonders we have in our aquariums with the people who visit us. We are looking forward to opening the doors again when the situation allows us to do so.