Animals & Experiences

ATLANTA (February 25, 2024) – On February 25, the Aquarium welcomed Nunavik (Noon-ah-vick) to Atlanta from SeaWorld Orlando as part of a decades-long collaboration with several other aquariums that care for beluga whales. Nunavik is settling in comfortably at Georgia Aquarium with female beluga whales Maple, Shila, Qinu, and Whisper and three harbor seals in the Aquarium’s arctic-themed Cold Water Quest gallery.

Less than 32 beluga whales are cared for in accredited North American aquariums, making it crucial to collaboratively sustain the population so there are opportunities for research and the ability to connect millions of people with these incredible animals. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) is dedicated to continuing the population efforts within aquariums. As part of that guiding principle, participating AZA facilities work together to ensure optimal well-being through varying appropriate social pods and natural breeding behaviors.


Nunavik is 14 years old and weighs in at 2488 pounds; he will now be the largest whale at Georgia Aquarium. He will add a male presence to the strong female group, providing new opportunities for social interactions and possible courtship behaviors. The trainers and animal care staff, many of whom formed a relationship with Nunavik when he was at Georgia Aquarium previously, will be incorporating him into training sessions, enrichment, and routine healthcare sessions.


Beluga whales in their native ranges are impacted by a rapidly changing environment and other human impacts. The research and education that is done at aquariums is vital to the overall understanding of those changes. Georgia Aquarium’s experts’ partner with government agencies, conservation groups, and other aquariums to assist in critical research programs that will have a direct impact on wild beluga whale populations. Nunavik will join an ongoing research project in the coming months. The Aquarium partnered with NOAA and the University of Santa Cruz on a multi-year study that began in 2018 and helped determine how much energy beluga whales expend when they are swimming, resting, and diving. The data can be collected and used to help make crucial decisions on activities that may negatively impact wild beluga whales’ health and their environments.


Beluga whales are typically found in arctic waters near Alaska, Canada, Norway, and the west coast of Greenland. Researchers estimate there are more than 136,000 beluga whales worldwide. Some subpopulations of beluga whales are experiencing heightened pressures and more rapid declines, like belugas in Alaska’s Cook Inlet, which are considered ‘Endangered”.


Pressures facing wild belugas are numerous and varied, including increased noise from shipping and drilling, increased pollution in their environments, contaminated and diminished food supply, and rising ocean temperatures. The future of this species is in jeopardy, threatening not just belugas, but the arctic ecosystems in which they play a pivotal role.


By working collaboratively, accredited aquariums caring for beluga whales can partner on international research and conservation efforts, gather data and knowledge that can be used to make critical decisions that impact beluga whales’ native areas and ignite an interest and connection for millions of people across the continent. The expert collaborative has been tapped for rescue efforts and as a resource for both the science community and government officials on many occasions Through these efforts and more, beluga whales will hopefully continue to thrive both in aquariums and in the ocean.



Georgia Aquarium is a leading 501(c)(3) non-profit organization located in Atlanta, Ga. that is Humane Certified by American Humane and accredited by the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Georgia Aquarium is committed to working on behalf of all marine life through education, preservation, exceptional animal care, and research across the globe. Georgia Aquarium continues its mission each day to inspire, educate, and entertain its millions of guests about the aquatic biodiversity throughout the world through its engaging exhibits and tens of thousands of animals across its eight major galleries.

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