Dubai: Sammy was not rescued by the Atlantis hotel, Gulf News has learnt, after speaking to ex-Atlantis employees who say that plans to have a whale shark in the hotel's Ambassador aquarium were clear from the beginning.
According to several previous employees who spoke to Gulf News on condition of anonymity, there was never been any plan to release Sammy and the hunt to find a resident whale shark was relentless, with fishing boats heading out every night to find one.
The hotel said in a statement in September that due to the high sea temperature and salinity of the water where the whale shark was found, the decision was made to transport the whale shark to Atlantis for medical care and observation.
According to the resort, the animal is being monitored 24 hours a day to gather data on swim patterns, feeding and behaviours.
An ex-employee from the Marine and Water Park department at Atlantis, who left the company this summer, said the hotel's plan to acquire a whale shark was known by all since the beginning.
"It was going to be part of the attraction. There was no mention of a release. We were always told it was coming," they said.
"When I joined the company the dolphins were already there but they were going fishing everyday to collect sharks and fish. They didn't catch many sharks though. A few bull sharks died from shock of being in a different environment," they said.
"They were looking everywhere for a whale shark. It has just become so annoying to read about this knowing they lied. It wasn't rescued."
Atlantis will not be outdone by the aquarium at Dubai Mall according to another employee. "There were certain things that I wasn't happy about...Obviously the whale shark was something on the cards from day one… Sol Kerzner had it on the plans forever - it was in all the pictures in the Preview Room at Nakheel," she said.
An Atlantis staff member who left the company earlier this year said it was appalling the way the hotel was handling the situation which has touched so many Gulf News readers.
"I think it would be easier for the public if they just came out and said they planned to get a whale shark and keep it…as far as I know it was always intended for it to be in the tank. The company was always looking for the next big thing to get everybody talking about," she said. "It was common knowledge," she added. "They have the best facilities but they should say they will keep it."
No comment was available from Atlantis or Nakheel after repeated attempts by Gulf News on Tuesday.
Environmentalists in the UAE are still focussing on getting Sammy released and believe it is the best outcome for the fish that has been in captivity for 38 days.