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Georgia Aquarium Welcomes Back Beluga Whales

Maris and Beethoven will join the newly added harbor seals

Atlanta (February 22, 2010) –

The Georgia Aquarium announced today that beluga whales are back in the Georgia-Pacific Cold Water Quest gallery. The whales arrived safely at the Georgia Aquarium on February 22, 2010. Maris returns to the Georgia Aquarium after a brief stay at SeaWorld San Antonio, while the beluga whale habitat was undergoing improvements. 

Maris, a 15-year-old female born at the New York Aquarium, is 11 feet long and weighs more than 900 pounds. Beethoven was the first successful beluga whale calf born at SeaWorld San Antonio and spent most of his life at Point Defiance Zoo. The 18-year-old male is 13 feet long and weighs more than 1740 pounds.

“There are only a few places in the world that beluga whales can be seen,” said Billy Hurley, senior vice president and chief animal officer.”We are incredibly excited to have these majestic animals back at the Georgia Aquarium. As the pair continues to acclimate smoothly, we look forward to announcing the date that they will be on display for our guests.”

Four harbor seals, which arrived at the Aquarium in February, will eventually go on exhibit with the beluga whales.

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 eight 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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