Georgia Aquarium

Beluga Calf Born at Georgia Aquarium


A [not-so-little] bundle of joy has arrived at Georgia Aquarium. Whisper, a 20-year-old beluga whale at Georgia Aquarium gave birth to a calf at 3:17 p.m. on Sunday, May 17, 2020. Whisper’s calf weighed 174 pounds at birth and is five feet four inches in length.



“We are so proud of Whisper and overjoyed to welcome her calf to our Georgia Aquarium family,” said Dennis Christen, senior director of zoological operations, mammals and birds at Georgia Aquarium. “We will be there right alongside the calf as it continues to grow and learn from Whisper.”

Whisper had a long labor, but with assistance from the Aquarium’s animal care and health teams she delivered her calf. Both Whisper and her calf are getting much needed rest and time to bond.

Georgia Aquarium’s animal care and health teams are monitoring Whisper and her calf around-the-clock. There are still milestones ahead for the little whale over the next several weeks, which are crucial for its development and the bonding experience.

Dr. Tonya Clauss, vice president of animal and environmental health at Georgia Aquarium stated, “Our animal health team is continuing to monitor Whisper and her calf. The coming weeks are important for the calf’s development and there are milestones to meet so we’re giving mom and calf all the support and time they need.”

Georgia Aquarium’s other beluga whales, Qinu, Maple, Nunavik, and Imaq are all doing well. They are currently in a separate area of the exhibit and will be introduced to Whisper and her calf when it’s appropriate.

“This birth is important not only for Georgia Aquarium, but all accredited zoological facilities. Our hope is to sustain the beluga whale population in North America so future generations can learn about them,” said Eric Gaglione, vice president of zoological operations at Georgia Aquarium. “Throughout Whisper’s pregnancy we tracked important data about beluga whale gestation that could hopefully make informed conservation decisions about belugas in the wild and their offspring.”

The full birth story, behind-the-scenes moments, and some surprise details will air in an Animal Planet special on May 30, 2020 at 10 p.m. EST. Stay tuned to Georgia Aquarium’s FacebookTwitter, and Instagram for updates as the calf continues to grow.

The Aquarium is currently closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Once the Aquarium reopens there are numerous factors to consider before opening the beluga whale habitat for public viewing of Whisper and her calf. There may be periods when the calf is not visible, or the habitat is closed.

Rescued Sea Otters Pups Arrive at Georgia Aquarium

1_Gibson in car wash material

A pair of rescued Southern Sea Otters has made their way to the Georgia Aquarium after being found stranded near the California coastline. Mara, a female, is approximately eleven-weeks-old, and Gibson, a male, is approximately five-weeks-old. They will stay in a behind-the-scenes area of the Aquarium for the foreseeable future while they acclimate to their new home.

Mara was stranded at approximately one-week-old near Port San Luis in San Luis Obispo County, California on January 17, 2019. She was rescued, and efforts made to locate her mother were unsuccessful. After being cared for at another facility in the Golden State, she was deemed non-releasable by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the search for a permanent home began.

Georgia Aquarium was selected as Mara’s new home due to its ability to care for a young pup that requires round-the-clock care. The Aquarium staff was in California preparing Mara for her trip to Atlanta, when unfortunately, another pup stranded.

Gibson was found at approximately three-weeks-old on March 12 near the Carmel River in California where he was separated from his mother during a large storm. The response team tried to return him to his mother, who was visible and vocalizing, but the storm surge made it near impossible. After those attempts were unsuccessful, the only option for him was euthanasia. Given the Aquarium’s expertise and already planned transport back to Atlanta with Mara, an emergency placement request was made so that Gibson would call Georgia Aquarium home, too.

If a permanent home had not been available for either of these pups, they would have been euthanized.

2_Gibson during towel dry

3_Gibson bottle feed

4_Gibson with enrichment toyPhoto Credits: Georgia Aquarium (Images 1-4= male pup Gibson ; Images 5-8 = female pup Mara)

To get the pups back to Atlanta as quickly and with as little stress as possible, the animal care and veterinary staff flew them directly from Monterey, California to Atlanta on a private jet. With the otters’ health and wellbeing in mind, the jet was cooled to approximately 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit and supplied with plenty of ice to keep these cold-weather mammals cool.

Once they arrived in Atlanta, they were put into a behind-the-scenes area where they will remain while they are under 24-hour watch and care. Mara is currently eating solid fish and swimming on her own, but Gibson, the younger of the two, is still being bottle-fed.

It's important for both of them to learn how to be a Sea Otter, grow, and adjust to their new environment before going on exhibit in the Cold Water Quest gallery with the other resident Sea Otters: Brighton, Bixby, and Cruz.

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Georgia Aquarium Welcomes First 'Puffling'


The Georgia Aquarium was thrilled to share news of their first-ever Tufted Puffin hatchling.

The fluffy, female “puffling” arrived in late July, and fans have been able to watch her grow via the Aquarium’s nesting cam. Webcams are still up and live during certain hours. Check with the Georgia Aquarium web page for more info:

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3_DSC_0015Photo Credits: Georgia Aquarium

The Tufted Puffin (Fratercula cirrhata), also known as Crested Puffin, is a medium-sized pelagic seabird in the auk family (Alcidae) found in the North Pacific Ocean. It is easily recognizable by its thick red bill and yellow tufts.

During breeding season, seabirds such as these return to land and form large colonies made up of many different species on steep coastal cliffs.

The seabirds form monogamous pairs that produce one to two eggs each breeding season. Nesting varies by species. Tufted Puffins prefer steep, grassy slopes suitable for burrowing.




Tiny Seahorses Hatch at Georgia Aquarium

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Check out these Big-belly Seahorse fry that hatched at the Georgia Aquarium!  

Seahorses are one of very few species where the male 'gives birth'. The female will deposit her eggs in a brood pouch located on her mate's belly, where he fertilizes them internally and carries them until they hatch. A single male may carry hundreds of eggs in his pouch.

When the fry hatch, they must gulp at air bubbles to fill up their swim bladder, an organ that allows them to control their buoyancy. Sometimes they gulp in a bit too much air. When this happens, they may float at the surface and be unable to feed. To help prevent 'floaters', these little guys live in a specially designed tank called a kreisel, which keeps water circulating gently so that they won't remain stuck at the surface. Aquarists also carefully string fishing line in the tank that the seahorses can grab onto with their prehensile tails. In their early days, the fry are fed tiny, live brine shrimp that are hatched at the aquarium.

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3 seahorse

4 seahorsePhoto credit: Georgia Aquarium

The system that houses the seahorse fry can be seen during the Aquarium's behind-the-scenes tours. Georgia Aquarium breeds Big-belly Seahorses as ambassadors for their threatened habitats, coral reefs and seagrass beds, which are important marine ecosystems. This breeding effort allows the aquarium to display seahorses without taking them from the ocean, and also to donate seahorses to other aquariums. 

See the aquarium's blog post for more. 

Marine Mammal Experts Work Round-the-Clock to Save Orphan Baby Beluga

Alaska SeaLife Center Bottlefeeding 2b

Four accredited U.S. aquariums have come together in an effort to save a newborn Beluga whale calf which was found stranded in South Naknek, Alaska last week - this is the first time in history that a live calf has been found and rescued in U.S. waters. Marine mammal experts with a combined 125 years of experience from Shedd Aquarium, SeaWorld and Georgia Aquarium immediately answered the Alaska SeaLife Center’s call for assistance to provide around-the-clock care for the calf during this rehabilitation period. The male, 112-pound calf is touch-and-go at this point and considered in critical condition – especially due to his immature immune system, and remains under 24-hour observation.

This is a great example of how the aquarium community comes together to work collaboratively in order do what’s best for an animal in need.

Alaska SeaLife Center Baby Beluga 1

DSCN0923Photo credits 1 and 2 and video: Alaska SeaLife Center. Photo 3: Provided by Shedd Aquarium featuring SeaWorld's Bill Winhall and Shedd Aquarium's Lisa Takaki

Update: New African Penguin Chick Video from Georgia Aquarium

Penguin chicks

Get your fuzzy here! The world's largest aquarium, the Georgia Aquarium located in Atlanta, recently announced that they successfully hatched two African Penguin chicks within two weeks of each other in early January. These valuable baby birds have been hand-reared behind-the-scenes by keepers. Watch the video below for their story and read our ZooBorns article from April 6 that's packed with pictures of their growth over 35 days. 

Georgia Aquarium Welcomes First South African Penguin Chicks

CU 7 days

Yesterday, Atlanta's Georgia Aquarium announced the birth of two South African Penguin chicks. The young sea birds, whose genders are unknown at this time, hatched within two weeks of each other in early January and have been hand-reared behind-the-scenes by Aquarium animal training and veterinary staff members.

The chicks have gone through considerable changes in a short amount of time. They are currently fledging -- a process during which they lose the fluffy down feathers they were born with and begin growing juvenile plumage (the pictures below show their progress). After becoming fully fledged, the chicks will be “waterproof.” Then the animal care and training team will begin introducing them to water so they can learn to swim in a special pool away from the colony. Once they are strong swimmers, the team will gradually introduce the chicks to the penguin colony and their habitat though they will continue to be hand-raised behind-the-scenes. 

South African Penguins are listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. These chicks will serve as animal ambassadors in the Aquarium’s outreach programs, helping to raise awareness and educate guests about threats penguins face in the wild.




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Photo Credit: Georgia Aquarium

More to read, just after the jump!

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Baby Sea Dragons at Georgia Aquarium!

The Georgia Aquarium recently introduced three Sea Dragon babies to its display in the Georgia-Pacific Cold Water Quest gallery. The Georgia Aquarium is the third facility in the United States to successfully hatch Weedy Sea Dragons. An interesting fact about the Weedy Sea Dragon is that it is the male of the species that “gives birth.” The female lays up to 250 to 300 eggs onto the soft underside of the male's tail. The eggs are embedded into the skin in cup-like structures that harden and form around each egg to hold and protect them during brooding. After about two months, the bright pink eggs hatch into miniature juveniles, which settle into the vegetation.




Dad is protecting his little ones [below]

Photo credits: Georgia Aquarium


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