Genetics to blame for Aquatarium delays



(Nexus 6 takes a break between performances.)

Repeated delays in the Aquatarium's opening date are the result of complications with construction – or so authorities would have you believe.

The truth, it turns out, is stranger than science fiction.

A leaked document from Parliament Hill reveals the $600,000 in additional federal funding for the project recently announced by Leeds-Grenville MP Gord Brown was not meant to cover construction costs, as initially suggested, but rather a top-secret genetic engineering experiment involving otters.

Project Michigan, so named for the university spearheading it, aims to bioengineer a new generation of performing animals and is supported by massive subsidies from a consortium of American entertainment conglomerates.

The Aquatarium was to be a beta-test site, situated close enough to the American market for observation, but at enough of a remove to distance its backers from the effects of any failure, the leaked documents suggest.

So far, they add, the work has only been a partial success.

The brother-sister otter pair slated to become the Aquatarium's signature attraction have not been housed at a Watertown zoo, as publicly stated, but rather the University of Michigan, where they were bred to be the first pair of high-end performing otters.

The pair – so far known only under the inauspicious names Nexus 6 and Nexus 6A – showed initial promise.

According to a leaked email from the project's lead geneticist, University of Michigan professor Lirpa Loof, the otters repeatedly delivered spontaneous and highly skilled renditions of “Hello Ma Baby,” “I'm Just Wild About Harry” and “The Michigan Rag,” complete with top hats and canes, and were about to be trained on a more contemporary repertoire when Aquatarium executive director Bill Rogerson and aquarist Thomas Harder were called down to Ann Arbor for a demonstration in early 2012.

A leaked email exchange between Harder and Mayor David Henderson describes what happened next.

I can confirm the demonstration was a failure,” writes the aquarist. “We watched the two of them sit listlessly in a tank and utter only one sound: 'Ribbit... ribbit.'”

Are these things otters or frogs?” the mayor fires back in a response.

I'm telling you what I heard, Your Worship,” Harder replies.

The Aquatarium steering committee decided to give Project Michigan more time to develop, further emails reveal, but began losing patience when, months before the next scheduled opening date coinciding with the Tall Ships Festival in June 2013, Rogerson and Harder returned to Ann Arbor only to hear the animals once again repeat the words: “Ribbit ... ribbit.”

The Aquatarium officials demanded Prof. Loof produce a video recording of the animals performing when no one else was apparently watching, but that video was seized at the border and destroyed for unknown reasons.

Further correspondence suggests the otters had worked their way up to a 70s repertoire and had perfected “YMCA,” moves and all, when a third demonstration in January again yielded only the same results.

It is hoped the fresh infusion of federal cash will allow Prof. Loof and his colleagues to correct the problem with some delicate neurosurgery, adds another email sent to the MP's office.

In a puzzling turn of events, the professor was reported missing by the university earlier this week.

A subsequent missing persons advisory from the Ann Arbor Police Department states Loof was last seen Wednesday morning in the vicinity of a construction site outside Detroit, carrying a large cardboard box.