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Georgia Aquarium Welcomes Two New Juvenile Beluga Whales

Grayson and Qinu are the newest additions to the beluga whale exhibit

Atlanta (November 30, 2010) – Georgia Aquarium announced today that two juvenile beluga whales have joined its adult beluga whales, Maris and Beethoven, in the Georgia-Pacific Cold Water Quest gallery. Both whales arrived safely from SeaWorld San Antonio on Nov. 21, 2010. 

The two whales, which were born at SeaWorld San Antonio, are smaller than Maris and Beethoven, who weigh more than 850 and 1,600 pounds respectively.  Qinu, pronounced Kee-nu, is a two-year-old female and weighs more than 600 pounds. Grayson, a three-year-old male, weighs more than 800 pounds. The pair are light gray in color, a trait seen in this species before they mature into adults.

“Georgia Aquarium is one of the few aquariums in North America where beluga whales can be seen,” said David Kimmel, president & COO, Georgia Aquarium. “Being able to see and appreciate these youngsters will be an amazing opportunity for our guests. I think our visitors will enjoy seeing the physical differences between the young beluga whales and the adults, as well as watching how they interact with each other.”

The decision to move Qinu and Grayson to the Georgia Aquarium is part of an overall long-term animal management plan between the aquariums and zoological institutions in North America that house beluga whales. This plan is designed to create an ideal social setting for the animals and to enhance opportunities for breeding. The juveniles may learn crucial courtship behaviors from watching and interacting with Maris and Beethoven.

For more information, contact Public Relations:

Meghann Gibbons, Director
404.581.4109
mgibbons@georgiaaquarium.org

Francesca Allegra, Specialist
404.581.4391
fallegra@georgiaaquarium.org

Mackenzie Whalen, Specialist
404.581.4230
mwhalen@georgiaaquarium.org

About Georgia Aquarium
The Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, Georgia, is the world’s largest with more than ten million gallons of water and more aquatic life than any other aquarium. The mission of the Georgia Aquarium is to be an entertaining, educational and scientific institution featuring exhibits and programs of the highest standards, offering engaging and exciting guest experiences and promoting the conservation of aquatic biodiversity throughout the world. For additional information, visit www.georgiaaquarium.org.

About Beluga Whales (Delphinapterus leucas)
The beluga whale is found in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions of the world including Russia, Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Norway and other northern European countries. It prefers to remain in shallow coastal water, but may move offshore and can dive as deep as 3,000 feet. This whale can hold its breath for 20 to 25 minutes.

The beluga whale will spend the summer in the cold polar seas and move into warmer, more southern waters during the winter to mate and calve. However, some individuals may remain in the north throughout the winter, living under the ice while maintaining a breathing hole as the sea surface freezes. They maintain the hole by breaking the ice as it forms using the dorsal ridge that runs along their back. Polar bears standing on the ice around the breathing hole prey on belugas by grabbing them as they surface for air.

The beluga whale is the only whale with a flexible neck. It is an extremely social animal, living, hunting and migrating in groups called “pods.” The beluga is the most vocal of the toothed whales and has earned the nickname “sea canary.”  This whale is a slow swimmer capable of bursts of speed of about 5 to 6 miles per hour. It has the ability to swim backward. The beluga whale is also called the “white whale.” The word “beluga” is derived from a Russian word meaning “white.”

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