wild places | wild happenings | wild news
make a difference for our wild places

home | links | search the site
  all articles latest | past | articles by topics | search wildnews
wild news on wildsingapore
  Yahoo News 1 Jun 07
Georgia aquarium gets 2 new whale sharks
By Doug Gross, Associated Press Writer

Atlanta Journal-Constitution 25 May 07
Taiwan approves export of 2 whale sharks
Georgia Aquarium predicts June arrival
By Craig Simons, Mark Davis

Atlanta Journal Constitution 18 May 07
Aquarium hits snag in shipment of Taiwan's whale sharks
By Craig Simons Cox News Service

Atlanta Journal Constitution 11 May 07
Reports: Atlanta aquarium getting 2 more whale sharks from Taiwan
By Mark Davis, Craig Simons

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution 25 Apr 07
Taiwan hesitates at request for more whale sharks

Death of Ralph raises concerns
By Mark Davis

Three months after the mysterious death of a prized whale shark, the Georgia Aquarium has applied to the Taiwanese government for two more.

Officials in Taiwan, however, raised concerns this week about the death of the massive fish named Ralph and indicated they may seek more answers before approving the request. "We don't want to see it [death] happen again," said Hung Kuoyao, the Taiwan Fisheries Agency official handling the request.

He said the aquarium may have to send representatives to Taiwan to make their pitch in person before the government OKs exporting any more of the world's largest fish to the United States. Taiwan may decide whether to approve the request by early May, officials said.

The Georgia Aquarium, one of only four aquariums in the world with whale sharks, declined to comment on the Taiwanese officials' remarks. Talking about acquiring animals "jeopardizes the safety of the animals in advance of their moving," said Dave Santucci, the aquarium's director of public relations.

The aquarium made its wishes clear April 12, when it applied for permits to export two more whale sharks back to Georgia, said Wu Man-chuan, who heads the resources management section of the Fisheries Agency of Taiwan's Council of Agriculture. The department's duties include overseeing Taiwan's annual whale shark quota, set at 30 this year.

Most of those whale sharks likely will be eaten. But two, netted in March, could be Georgia-bound, although Hung said the permits are not guaranteed. "We will have our experts and government officials get together soon to discuss whether we should give the permits," said Hung, whose agency oversees the export of whale sharks native to Taiwanese waters.

"For one whale shark has died; we don't want to see it happen again, either during the transportation, or after their arrival."

Ralph, a 22-foot-long male, glided to the bottom of the Ocean Voyager exhibit, a sprawling tank designed to hold six whale sharks, and died Jan. 11. A necropsy showed that the Rhincodon typus had a perforated stomach, which an expert said might have been caused by force-feeding through a PVC pipe. He died of peritonitis, an inflammation of the stomach lining.

Norton, the other male whale shark that made the trip with Ralph from Taiwan in June 2005, also has stopped eating, and is getting regular tube feedings. Females Alice and Trixie, which arrived a year after the males, are in apparent good shape, eating on their own.

Georgia Aquarium officials say they aren't sure why Norton is ailing while the females are thriving, but note that Ralph and Norton were in Ocean Voyager, the aquarium's 6.2- million-gallon tank, when workers treated it in 2005 with a chemical to rid it of leeches. Alice and Trixie were still in Taiwan. Ralph and Norton soon stopped eating, prompting the force-feedings.

The aquarium has discontinued treating the exhibit with the chemical, which it will not name. Specialists not affiliated with the Georgia Aquarium say the likely agent was Dylox, a pesticide. Used improperly, they said, it can cause a loss of appetite and other problems in elasmobranchs, a class of fish encompassing rays, skates and sharks.

Officials in Taiwan have been more forthcoming about details of Ralph's death. After the whale shark succumbed, Hung said, Georgia Aquarium representatives traveled to Taiwan.

"They reported [to] us on how they exhibited and fed the shark and also their research on the death of it," Hung said. The aquarium may have to make a repeat trip, Hung added. "So our experts will check very carefully on the conditions of transportation and how they will feed the two whale sharks," he said. "Our experts will decide on whether we need people from Georgia to come again and report to us on this."

Bernie Marcus, the Home Depot co-founder who bankrolled most of the $290 million aquarium, was traveling out of the country Tuesday and was unavailable for comment about the export applications.

In a November interview, he said the aquarium would add fish "big fish, big fish" in 2007, but wouldn't say what he wanted to bring to the world's largest aquarium. Jeff Swanagan, the aquarium's president and executive director, was also traveling and the aquarium did not make him available for comment.

The aquarium's reported permit application underscores the debate over keeping whale sharks in captivity.

Some say no tank in the world is big enough to hold whale sharks, which can migrate thousands of miles. Others say that studying them in a controlled environment enhances the chances of whale sharks' survival in the wild.

That survival isn't certain, according to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. The organization says whale sharks could become extinct unless their international trade, and products made from whale sharks, aren't strictly regulated.

Cox News researcher Qiu Xiaolei in Beijing contributed to this article.

Atlanta Journal Constitution 11 May 07
Reports: Atlanta aquarium getting 2 more whale sharks from Taiwan
By Mark Davis, Craig Simons

Two more whale sharks are on their way to the Georgia Aquarium, according to reports out of Taiwan.

Fisheries officials on the east Asia island are ready to approve the export of the male whale sharks to the Atlanta aquarium, said a Taiwanese whale shark expert who has reviewed the aquarium's applications.

One of Taiwan's largest newspapers reported earlier this week that officials have already signed off on the transfer. "They will probably be exported to the United States in June," said Zhuang Shouzheng, an associate professor at National Taiwan Ocean University. A member of the committee studying the aquarium's export application, Zhuang said he and others are awaiting some paperwork from the aquarium before finalizing the deal.

The Georgia Aquarium declined comment on whether it plans to add more whale sharks to its collection.

The whale sharks' arrival would raise to five the number of the creatures, known as the world's largest fish, circling in the aquarium's Ocean Voyager exhibit.

The decision to ship the sharks represents an apparent change in opinions about the aquarium's care of the them.

A male whale shark died at the aquarium in January, prompting questions about a chemical used in their tank to treat parasites, which could have curbed their appetite and led to force-feeding of the fish.

The whale shark, named Ralph, died from peritonitis, an inflammation of the stomach lining. He also had perforations in his stomach, possibly caused by the PVC pipe used to force-feed the leviathan.

The aquarium has declined to release the necropsy report detailing the cause of Ralph's death.

As late as last month, one fisheries official said he'd expressed reservations about transporting whale sharks so far from their native waters that they could not be returned if they became ill.

Now, said Zhuang, the committee reviewing the proposal to ship the whale sharks 8,000 miles to Georgia see "no problems" with exporting them. Zhuang said he and other committee members met with fisheries officials last week to discuss the aquarium's applications.

They compared the Georgia Aquarium's care for its whale sharks with that offered by the three other facilities in the world all in Asia that display them. "We decided that there are no problems with their experience and techniques" in handling the whale sharks, Zhuang said.

Taiwanese officials have signed off on the deal, reported the United Daily News of Taiwan.

In a brief article that appeared in Tuesday's edition, the newspaper reported that "a council of agriculture already approved their export."

The article also noted Ralph's death at the aquarium, "and it is suspected that it died of improper feeding."

Ralph came to Georgia in June 2005, along with Norton, another male. Both were in Ocean Voyager when the aquarium treated the sprawling tank with a chemical to prevent leeches. The two fish soon stopped eating, prompting the force-feedings. Norton is still undergoing the feedings, the aquarium said.

At least two other aquariums with whale sharks said they do not force-feed them because they lack the expertise to do it successfully.

Alice and Trixie, females, arrived nearly a year after the first whale sharks came to America. They were not in the tank when the aquarium treated it with the chemical in question, and have shown no signs of appetite loss.

Ocean Voyager, which stretches the length of a football field, is the centerpiece of the Georgia Aquarium. Designers say it was built to accommodate six whale sharks.

The latest whale sharks bound for Georgia, each weighing about 1,750 pounds, are in a pen in Hualien, a city on Taiwan's east coast.

They were part of a 30-shark annual quota set by Taiwan. The other 28 likely will be eaten, officials said.

Craig Simons reported this story from Beijing; Mark Davis from Atlanta

Atlanta Journal Constitution 18 May 07
Aquarium hits snag in shipment of Taiwan's whale sharks
By Craig Simons Cox News Service

TAIPEI The Georgia Aquarium has run into a governmental tangle that even the world's largest aquarium cannot dodge: paperwork.

A Taiwanese official said Friday that a "very rough" account of the January death of a whale shark at the aquarium is insufficient to allow the shipment of two more whale sharks to Georgia.

The aquarium also must show the government the scientific importance of displaying specimens of the world's largest fish so far from their native waters, the official said.

When the aquarium meets those obligations, said Chen Tain-Shou, deputy director-general of Taiwan's Fisheries Agency, there should be "no problem" with shipping two more male whale sharks to Atlanta.

The aquarium declined comment on the officials' request for a report, and its plans for acquiring more whale sharks. It also declined comment on reports that two aquarium officials are in Taiwan for preparations to move the whale sharks to Atlanta.

Chen said he expects the whale sharks to be exported next month, provided the agency gets the answers it seeks. "Right now, our understanding is that the whale shark died of natural causes, but we need to know exactly why it died," said Chen.

The whale shark, Ralph, died Jan. 11, sinking to the bottom of the aquarium's Ocean Voyager exhibit. A necropsy showed that he succumbed to peritonitis, an inflammation of the stomach lining. The 22-foot fish also had a perforated stomach, possibly caused by a tube used in force-feedings, the necropsy revealed.

The aquarium told fisheries officials that Ralph died "because of a stomach problem," Chen said. It provided "very rough" information about the leviathan's demise instead of a necropsy report, Chen said.

Chen also said that the aquarium had not told Taiwanese officials it had treated the whale sharks' Ocean Voyager tank with a chemical to rid it of leeches. The aquarium treated the 6.2 million-gallon tank with an undisclosed chemical some time after Ralph and Norton, another male whale shark, arrived in Atlanta in June 2005. Each stopped eating regularly after the treatment.

Until he died, Ralph was regularly fed through a PVC pipe, and Norton is still getting food the same way. Alice and Trixie, female whale sharks that came to Georgia nearly a year after the males, weren't in the tank when it was treated. They appear healthy.

Caught in March The two whale sharks circling in a pen in the Philippine Sea are called Nos. 25 and 26. Caught in March, they're part of a quota of 30 whale sharks the Taiwanese government established this year.

Whale sharks are regularly eaten in Asia. Unlike other whale sharks in that quota, the two are tentatively bound for Georgia not a dinner plate.

No. 25, said Chu Yung-Cheng, a spokesman for the Hualien department of fisheries, came thrashing to the surface in a March 14 netting; his proposed traveling companion, No. 26, surfaced the next day. One shark is 15 feet long; the other reaches 16, he said. They weigh about 1,500 pounds each and are healthy, he said.

They're just off the coast of Hualien, a fishing city on Taiwan's eastern coast. If Taiwan approves their exportation, the two will travel to America in specially designed containers, where Georgia Aquarium officials hope they may eventually mate with the female whale sharks a first for a whale shark in captivity, if the aquarium succeeds.

Aquarium officials have always stressed their research of whale sharks, one of the world's least-understood fishes. Visitors to the aquarium can watch a video highlighting whale sharks, and the aquarium's Web site has a lengthy segment explaining its whale-shark research.

Taiwanese officials hope the aquarium remains committed to that study, said Chen. "We want to be sure the whale sharks will be healthy in Atlanta, and that they will improve scientific work," he said.

But first, the aquarium has to have its paperwork in order and delivered to the appropriate agencies. That's expected "very soon," said Wu Man-chuan, director of the agency's natural resources department.

Meantime, the two sharks swim in the restless, gray depths of the Philippine Sea.

Two Georgia Aquarium officials are in Taiwan, Taiwanese officials said, readying the sharks for what could be the longest trip of their lives.

Staff writer Mark Davis, in Atlanta, contributed to this article.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution 25 May 07
Taiwan approves export of 2 whale sharks
Georgia Aquarium predicts June arrival
By Craig Simons, Mark Davis

Two more whale sharks are coming to the Georgia Aquarium, most likely in June.

Representatives of Taiwan's Fisheries Agency announced Thursday that the department had approved exporting the male whale sharks, caught in March in the Philippine Sea.

They also said that Taiwan no longer will catch, sell or export whale sharks after this year.

Aquarium spokesman Dave Santucci declined comment on the announcement. "Bernie [Marcus, the aquarium's chief benefactor] has addressed that already," Santucci said.

On Wednesday, while attending a celebration honoring the aquarium's 5 millionth visitor, Marcus said, "When we get 'em, they'll be here."

A spokesman for UPS, which has brought whale sharks to Atlanta twice before, confirmed Friday that the aquarium had contacted the international shipper about transporting two more to Georgia.

"We are seriously considering the request," spokesman Norman Black said.

The export agreement dismayed Brad Norman, the founder and director of Ecocean, an Australian nonprofit conservation organization working to protect whale sharks, the world's largest fish.

"It's like putting a hippopotamus into a glass full of water," he said. "These guys can travel 8,000 kilometers and dive down at least 1,500 meters. No matter what size tank you have they're going to be going around in circles."

The aquarium has three whale sharks on display at Ocean Voyager, a 6.2-million-gallon tank that teems with golden trevallys, groupers, mullets and other fishes.

It held four whale sharks until Jan. 11, when Ralph, a male, died. He succumbed to peritonitis, an inflammation of the abdomen, a necropsy showed. He also had a perforated stomach, possibly brought on by force-feeding.

Ralph and Norton, another male whale shark, stopped eating after the aquarium treated the sprawling tank with a pesticide to rid it of leeches. Norton still gets force-fed. Trixie and Alice, female whale sharks that arrived in 2006, weren't in the tank at the time and appear healthy.

Those sharks, like the two whose arrival is pending, came from Taiwan.

Fisheries officials revealed Thursday that the two heading to Atlanta represent the completion of a three-year deal: In 2005, they said, the aquarium applied to the Taiwanese government to transport six sharks over three years -- two a year, with the final two coming in 2007.

The two whale sharks coming from Taiwan should be the last shipped from that Asian nation.

Taiwanese officials recently said Taiwan would ban catching whale sharks for food or export starting in 2008.

Whale sharks, despite their size, are mysterious creatures. They can grow 40 feet or longer, but scientist know little more than that about whale sharks, which are found off the coast of Mexico, Australia, the Philippines Belize and other nations.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora has classified them as "vulnerable to extinction."

Craig Simons reported from Beijing. Mark Davis from Atlanta.

Yahoo News 1 Jun 07
Georgia aquarium gets 2 new whale sharks
By Doug Gross, Associated Press Writer

Two large trucks with police escorts flashing their lights rumbled up to the world's largest aquarium early Friday with its newest residents two whale sharks that had made an 8,000-mile journey from Taiwan.

Veterinarians measured the new sharks and took blood samples before they were transferred by canvas harness from the trucks into their new home.

The aquarium's other whale sharks, Norton, Alice and Trixie, circled nearby, seemingly curious about the newcomers.

Their arrival comes just over four months after the death of Ralph, another whale shark that was a star of the Georgia Aquarium when it opened in 2005. Ralph had stomach problems that led to an inflammation of a membrane in his abdomen, according to aquarium officials.

But some animal rights groups have questioned whether his death involved a chemical used in the tank to treat parasites.

The aquarium officials agree the tank's treatment routine which has since been changed likely contributed to Ralph's loss of appetite, but they say it's not clear that it had anything to do with the fatal peritonitis.

Taiwan fishery officials said they were satisfied that the aquarium provides high-quality care of the animals before sending the two new whale sharks. The two new young males were given Asian names in honor of their origins: Yushan means "jade mountain," and Taroko was named for a national park in Taiwan.

The five Georgia whale sharks are the only whale sharks on display outside of Asia. Georgia Aquarium scientists say the 6-million-gallon tank should be roomy enough for the massive sharks which can grow up to 40 feet long.

Related articles on Southern Islands Development including the Sentosa IR
and dolphins and whale sharks in captivity
about the site | email ria
  News articles are reproduced for non-profit educational purposes.

website©ria tan 2003 www.wildsingapore.com