This past week I spent laziest Christmas ever in Georgia, which consisted of endless eating, lounging, sleeping, and board game-playing. The one day I actually did get up and do something I went to see Atlanta’s biggest attraction, the Georgia Aquarium. I knew beforehand that is was one of the biggest in the world and that it had some whale sharks, but aside from that I knew nothing. I should have known better than to pay good money to an aquarium before doing my fair share of research.
After seeing The Cove and Blackfish I have been a pretty staunch opposer of keeping whales and dolphins in tanks. I live in San Diego and have never set foot inside Sea World and strongly advise anyone I know to at least see these movies before they make a decision about going themselves. So now I am kicking myself for giving my monetary support for this aquarium.
Just having been to Monterey Bay Aquarium where there are no large animals whatsoever, it didn’t even cross my mind that there would be whales or dolphins at the Georgia Aquarium. Once inside, suddenly staring into the tank of 3 snowy white Beluga Whales, I desperately wanted to go Free Willy on the place. They were swimming in the same repetitive circles, a sure sign of severe boredom if not something worse. After watching them do about 10 of the same exact loops through their relatively small tank, I had enough. It was just incredibly sad… and then came the whale sharks.
The whale sharks are in the huge ocean tank with other sharks and rays including Mantas, which are my favorite. Seeing wild Manta Rays in Palau was one of the highlights of all my travels. I’ve never seen a whale shark in person, but in videos they are always in the open ocean with their huge mouths feasting on plankton. Seeing them in this tank was like watching giant goldfish in a glass bowl. The last straw was finding out there was a dolphin show. You have to pay extra for this so we obviously did not see it.
After doing my research I found that 2 whale sharks have died at the Georgia Aquarium already, as well as 2 Beluga Whales. Despite all the backlash from the orca-related deaths and all the current attention surrounding these animals, the Georgia Aquarium is still trying to purchase more Belugas from Russia. Thankfully they have been blocked by NOAA, but are still pushing to allow the import of these whales. I desperately hope this does not happen. It’s my New Year’s wish. If you have not seen The Cove or Blackfish, I highly recommend them.
Here are some pictures of these amazing creatures– the divers in the bottom give a good size comparison. These were baby whale sharks too!