As the largest fish in the sea, whale sharks were named due to their immense size: Adults can reach 13 meters (~40 feet) and weigh over 25 tons, rivaling most dinosaurs in size. This gentle giant is gray or brown with a flattened head, white spots, pale vertical and horizontal stripes and a white underside. They are filter feeders, maintaining their bulk on a diet of plankton and small fish, and with jaws up to 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) wide, they can consume 3–5lbs of plankton per hour. Whale sharks are found in warm oceans around the world and in a handful of aquariums. One of these aquariums is the Georgia Aquarium, which acquired two small female whale sharks in 2006 and two small males in 2007 from Taiwan’s annual fishing kill quota with help from Taiwan’s Fisheries Agency before capture of whale sharks was banned in 2008. Note that “small” is a relative term; all four sharks were well over 13 feet in length.
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.