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Georgia Aquarium to Become First in North America to Study, Conserve, and Exhibit the Whale Shark

Rhincodon typus is the Largest Fish in the Ocean

Atlanta, GA (June 3, 2005) – In keeping with its commitment to be a world leader in promoting efforts to conserve aquatic wildlife, the Georgia Aquarium (non-profit, 501c3) is conducting worldwide research and conservation efforts on sharks. Following extensive study that took place over a number of years, the Georgia Aquarium searched in the waters off Taiwan to obtain two immature whale sharks, a gentle filter-feeding species and the largest fish in the sea. The fish, one 15 feet 6 inches, and the other 13 feet total length, were considered suitable for transport to Atlanta, and took an 18-hour ride on a UPS plane to their new home at the Georgia Aquarium. The fish were flown more than 8,000 miles, under the care and supervision of Georgia Aquarium professional staff, on a UPS B-747 freighter from Taipei, Taiwan, through Anchorage to Atlanta. Flight logistics included the re-configuration of the plane's interior, custom tanks with a highly advanced marine life support system, and special hoisting equipment, required at each end of the journey. The full capacity of the B-747 was required because the fish, their special tanks and water weighed a combined 54,000 pounds. Bernie Marcus, benefactor of the $200 million Georgia Aquarium scheduled to open November 23, 2005, noted the Georgia Aquarium will be the first outside of Asia to house a whale shark. Marcus said that this research and conservation endeavor for the whale shark "is exactly in keeping with the mission" his aquarium team considered "when they envisioned the conservation and research programs the aquarium would provide." Marcus explained that the Georgia Aquarium will continually look for research, rescue, rehabilitation and relocation opportunities. This species of shark known to the scientific world as Rhincodon typus, 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 science. To unravel some of these mysteries, the Georgia Aquarium is partnering with Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Florida in a long-term study of whale sharks. For information contact: Donna Fleishman Georgia Aquarium 770-241-8252 (cell) 404-720-8149 (office) ABOUT THE GEORGIA AQUARIUM The Georgia Aquarium will open in Atlanta, Georgia on November 23, 2005, as one of the world's largest aquarium facilities. With more than 5 million gallons of marine and fresh water, more than 55,000 animals represented from 500 different species, the Georgia Aquarium is a $200 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 will be overseen by a nonprofit corporation run by a board of directors. The mission of the 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. 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. Additional information on the Georgia Aquarium can be found at www.georgiaaquarium.org ABOUT THE WHALE SHARK The whale shark is the world's largest fish reaching lengths up to 45 feet. Despite its large size, the whale shark is harmless to humans. Whale sharks are found worldwide in tropical and subtropical waters. It has a wide mouth with about 3,000 small teeth at the front of its wide, flat head. This large filter-feeding shark consumes plankton and small fish as it swims through the water. Until recently, whale sharks were thought to lay eggs. It is now known that they are live-bearing, producing litters of more than 300 "pups" that measure only 18 inches in length. Whale sharks are considered relatively solitary creatures that swim slowly at the surface to feed. The whale shark is gray to brown in color with light yellow or white markings and a white belly. ABOUT MOTE MARINE LABORATORY Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Florida was founded in 1955 and is a nonprofit, independent 501c3 organization dedicated to the advancement of marine and environmental sciences through scientific research, education and public outreach, leading to new discoveries, revitalization and sustainability of our oceans, and greater public understanding of our marine resources. Research at Mote comprises seven centers of excellence including the Center for Shark Research, which was designated by the U.S. Congress as a national research center in 1991. The world's largest research center dedicated to the scientific study of sharks and their relatives, the Mote Center for Shark Research is collaborating with the Georgia Aquarium on studies of the whale shark around the world. More information on Mote Marine Laboratory can be found at www.mote.org

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