How does one transport whale sharks from Taiwan to an aquarium in Atlanta halfway around the world? Clearly a handful of bubble wrap and a roll of stamps isn’t going to suffice.
To accomplish this gargantuan task, the Georgia Aquarium partnered with shipping specialist United Parcel Service (UPS) to transport the sharks 8,000 miles to their new home in the Ocean Voyager exhibit, a special 6.2-million-gallon (23.5-million-liter) tank. Planning required many months. To accommodate the sharks and the water necessary to sustain them, UPS reconfigured a B-747 freighter and incorporated a marine life support system with the help of aquarium veterinarians, who monitored the sharks’ health at every step of the process. To start the journey, each shark was rounded up in a sea pen, then loaded into a special shipping container, which weighed a total of 25,000 pounds and had to be carefully loaded onto the customized plane to maintain the center of balance. The temperature was kept at a constant 75°F and changes in altitude during take-off and landing were gradual to minimize stress to the animals. Once in Atlanta, the shipping containers were loaded onto a truck and transported to the Georgia Aquarium, where the whale sharks joined their new tank mates, which include jacks, stingrays and manta rays, groupers, other sharks and many other species of fish. Photos of the transport can be found here, and a short video of the transport can be viewed here.
In addition to the whale sharks, the Georgia Aquarium is home to four beluga whales (Nico, Natasha, Marina and Maris), a Manta ray named Nandi and 100,000 other animals of 500 different species. Since the aquarium first opened in November of 2005, 11 million visitors have experienced this amazing collection. Those of us who are attending the International Symposium on Human Identification (ISHI) this year will be joining these ranks as we dine with the fish at the off-site Wednesday dinner event and check out the new exhibit “Sea Monsters Revealed: Aquatic Bodies”. For more information about ISHI, visit ISHI News.
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