MILWAUKIE, Ore. (KOIN) -- There's a new investigation into claims that dozens, even hundreds, of animals have died inside the Portland Aquarium.
On Tuesday aquarium staff invited KOIN 6 News inside the doors of its Milwaukie facility, saying they have nothing to hide.
"It irritates us and makes us feel bad," Smith said. "Because we come here to do the best job we can and then, boom, we get slammed."
Portland Aquarium workers say the accusations are coming from disgruntled former employees. One of the former employees criticizing the aquarium has leaked what's being called a "death log": listing more than 200 animals alleged to have died between February and May of this year. The list includes sharks, sea horses and eels.
Workers confirm the aquarium does keep a death log, but said it has likely being taken out of context.
"We have a death log that we keep," Smith said. "But the death log encompasses every little snail and every little creature that we have in here."
They argue the death log is being taken out of context because it includes things like baby feeder fish, and doesn't take into account things like the aquarium getting a 10-year-old fish -- with a life expectancy of 10 years -- that then dies.
"A lot of the people here get attached, not only to the fish but to the lizards and the snakes and the birds," Smith said. "And they take it very personal when someone starts making accusations that aren't true."
The log reports some animals died of starvation. Smith also contests this claim.
"We feed 'em well," Smith said. If anything, he said, "they would probably die from being overfed."
But the answers provided by aquarium workers don't satisfy the alleged whistle-blower's concerns.
"I think the most frustrating part of it was the loss of life, in ways that could have been prevented and ways that we kept repeating 'If you do this, this will happen; if you do this, this will happen,'" ex-employee and marine biologist Caroline Emch-Wei told KOIN 6 News. "And look, it kept happening again and again and again."
KOIN 6 News went to other aquariums to ask about death rates there.
The Seattle aquarium didn't provide a specific percentage. It did report that death rates can be affected by species, age of animal, and things like that.
The Oregon Coast aquarium reports its mortality rate is significantly less than 1% a year.
That's much lower than the 8% rate the death log would indicate at the Portland Aquarium. Still, workers take issue with the numbers here: "We don't know where that 200 came from," Smith said. "We don't know."
The Oregon Humane Society has launched an investigation into the ex-employees' claims.
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