GA Aquarium suffers 2nd Whale Shark Death

13 06 2007

Just two weeks ago I wrote about the death of “Ralph”, one of the star attractions of the Georgia Aquarium, as two new whale sharks were being introduced to the crowded habitat. Now a second whale shark, “Norton”, has died. Norton seems to have suffered in a manner similar to Ralph, his health declining as he refused to eat (I wonder if they force-fed him with a PVC pipe, too). I seriously don’t know how an aquarium irresponsible enough to cram so many whale sharks in one tank could be allowed to introduce more, and I seriously hope that they will be blocked from obtaining any more animals. They aren’t helping preserve the species, despite their platitudes about starting a breeding program; the whales sharks are there to make people money, and now two of these rare animals have died so someone’s pockets could be a little heavier. Absolutely disgusting.




5 responses

13 06 2007

I was at the Atlanta Aquarium today. I didn’t hear the news, but when I saw some tv crews I knew something was up, my initial response was, I bet another one of the whale sharks died. My suspicions grew when I counted the whale sharks when I got to the tank they are in (they share the tank with a large number of other fish) and there were only three. I didn’t hear anything on the matter until the way home, which confirmed what I already figured out. It looks like a really nice place, shame those looks have to come at the price of such a wonderful animal’s life.

13 06 2007

Thanks for the comment Zeta; I have heard it is absolutely beautiful, but it seems that more and more aquariums are becoming for-profit institutions (as happened with the N.J. State Aquarium about 2 years ago) and when that happens animal welfare seems to come in second. I know other shark fans are outraged by this, and hopefully there will be a larger response from the public that will prevent the aquarium from obtaining “replacements.”

14 06 2007

Yes, the Georgia Aquarium announced in May that Norton was being forced fed. In fact, prior to Ralph’s demise in January.

Here’s the measurements of the Georgia Aquarium – 263 feet long x 126 feet wide x 33 feet deep (at it’s deepest!!). This is solitary confinement to an animal that grows to be 66ft and roams the ocean for up to 150 years. These whale sharks are literally snorkeling their entire life.

It doesn’t take a scientist to solve what caused Ralph’s and Norton’s death – it’s common sense. They weren’t in their natural environment and the Georgia Aquarium came no where near recreating it. Just like humans cannot sustain any real length of time in the depths of oceans or in outer space without their physiology changing and not adapting (and are brought back to their normal enviroment to stablize) – whale sharks are not meant to swim in endless circles in 33ft of water. Common sense.

The story regarding the chemicals surfaced months after Ralph was supposedly cremated. Suspect answer at best and even then they won’t simply tell us what the chemicals were. What reason in the name of research is there to withhold this information?

This ‘saved from sushi’ campaign is the worst kind of corporate marketing propaganda to make the masses ‘feel good’. If Bernie Marcus and his Georgia Aquarium were truly interested in conservation, research and education, they could have at least built the aquarium in Savannah – where they would have had emergency access to the ocean to at least give Ralph and Norton a fighting chance. But no, they built it in land locked Atlanta, the most populace city in the South so they would get the quickest return on their money.

They need to be held accountable. Ensure emergency plans are in place for the remaining whale sharks and other experimental species. Then just maybe, I might consider this endeavor is something more than the arrogance of a supposedly superior species.

15 06 2007


I think aquariums should be closed.

If people really want to see the animals, they should use the money to board a boat and visit their natural environment. This way, they would create a reason for coastal people to preserve their environment, rather than relying on (over)fishing to eke out a living.

The real economics probably do not support my idea, yet, I’d like to know whether such thing is doable.

Laelaps, compliments for the new face of the blog. Have been missing here since Deynosuchus

15 06 2007

Terradale; I definitely agree with you. I think the aquarium’s policy of “force feeding” these animals was the major factor in their demise, and I have been disturbed in the way they’ve tried to keep things quiet. While some zoos may be able to keep animals reasonably comfortable and implement conservation plans, aquariums like the one in Atlanta seem to only be about money, and we do not know enough about these animals to keep them alive and healthy long enough to implement any kind of conservation measures. The argument then becomes “Well, how do you learn to keep them other than by doing it?” but I think it is disgusting to throw away the lives of animals belonging to a threatened species just to “see how it goes.”

Luca; Thank you for your comment as well, and the compliments (I think the blog looks a lot better and is easier to read now). As for “eco-tourism,” it’s a fair idea but it also has it’s own problems. Like Aldo Leopold wrote “But all conservation of wilderness is self-defeating, for to cherish we must see and fondle, and when enough have seen and fondled, there is no wilderness left to cherish.” Indeed, it’s strange that when people want to save the wilderness they want to see it up close, cutting roads into forests or polluting the water with trash and chemicals from boats, then calling it “conservation.” Zoos and responsible aquariums (if there are any, anywhere) make something of a devil’s bargain in this respect, and if we were to develop eco-tourism too much then the last “wild” places on earth would merely become zoos bounded by roads rather than what they should be. I’d recommend David Quammen’s book Song of the Dodo if you’re interested in what happens when we parcel up ecology.

Indeed, it seems to care about nature we need to tack on an economic value to it or bring the “wild” to the people, and until the public mindset changes, until we are content to leave things alone, the best we can do is hold institutions accountable for their actions.

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