Two Female Whale Sharks Arrive at Georgia Aquarium
Alice and Trixie Join Ralph and Norton in Ocean Voyager 6.2 Million Gallon Habitat
Atlanta, GA (June 5, 2006) – Atlanta's Georgia Aquarium is the first outside of Asia to house whale sharks and, as of early this morning, the only one in the world to have four on display. Two new additions - Trixie and Alice - joined Ralph and Norton, two males, in the Aquarium's Ocean Voyager exhibit, built by The Home Depot, a 6.2 million gallon habitat. Alice, 13 feet 10 inches long, and Trixie, 15 feet 5 inches long, were flown more than 8,000 miles on a specially configured UPS B-747 freighter from Taipei, Taiwan, through Anchorage to Atlanta under the care and supervision of Georgia Aquarium professional staff and a highly advanced marine life support system. UPS and the Aquarium had teamed up exactly one year ago to transport the two males to Atlanta from Taipei. Bernie Marcus, benefactor of the Aquarium, said, "I am ecstatic we brought these beautiful female whale sharks to their home at the Georgia Aquarium. Our entire 500,000 square foot facility was built around their Ocean Voyager habitat, which was designed to accommodate up to six full-grown whale sharks." "We are confident they will thrive here, just as Ralph and Norton have done since their arrival," Marcus added. "Executive Director Jeff Swanagan, our Aquarium team and UPS are to be commended for their efforts to ensure their safety on the long and difficult trip here." Marcus said that the whale shark research and conservation efforts are in complete alignment with the non-profit's 4R Program, a strategy designed to make a positive difference in the health and well-being of aquatic life from around the world. (The four areas of focus for this program are Rehabilitation, Relocation, Rescue and Research.) Georgia Aquarium Executive Director Jeff Swanagan said the Aquarium is committed to advancing the understanding of aquatic species through research. "Having male whale sharks cohabitate with female whale sharks, the Aquarium will have a better understanding of how this species interacts, including breeding," Swanagan added. He also noted that Georgia Aquarium funds research in Mexico and Taiwan to better understand the migration patterns, feeding habits and current population of whale sharks in the oceans. ABOUT WHALE SHARKS This species of shark is known to the scientific world as Rhincodon typus. A gentle filter-feeding species, its behavior and basic biology, such as where it travels in the oceans, reproduces and feeds at different life stages, is not well known. To unravel some of these mysteries, the Georgia Aquarium has partnered with Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Florida in a long-term study of whale sharks. ABOUT OCEAN VOYAGER The Ocean Voyager exhibit at Georgia Aquarium is the largest exhibit in the world. It holds 6.2 million gallons of water, is approximately the size of a football field and is 33 feet deep. The exhibit was designed to house up to six full grown whale sharks, not only by size, but also considering depth and shape. The exhibit is deep enough to accommodate the feeding habits of a whale shark. It also was designed with currents to accommodate whale shark swimming behaviors; the shape of the exhibit is designed to allow the whale sharks to swim in a figure eight pattern maximizing the length they can swim straight. The Ocean Voyager gallery is two and a half times the size of the Okinawa exhibit in Japan that successfully houses three whale sharks, one of which has lived in that exhibit for 10 years. ABOUT GEORGIA AQUARIUM Georgia Aquarium opened in Atlanta, Georgia on November 23, 2005, as the world's largest aquarium. Georgia Aquarium is a $250 million gift to the people of Georgia from Bernie Marcus, co-founder of The Home Depot, and his wife Billi, through the Marcus Foundation. The Aquarium, which has welcomed more than two million visitors in six months, is overseen by a nonprofit corporation run by a board of directors. The mission of Georgia Aquarium is to be an entertaining, educational and scientific institution featuring exhibitions and programs of the highest standards, offering engaging and entertaining visitors' experiences and promoting the conservation of aquatic biodiversity throughout the world. The Georgia Aquarium is committed to continually working to provide the best guest experience. It is the goal of the Georgia Aquarium to educate audiences of all ages, while promoting a fun and entertaining learning experience that inspires guests to appreciate the world's aquatic biodiversity and to take conservation action. For additional information on Georgia Aquarium, visit www.georgiaaquarium.org.