Video: New whale sharks arrive in U.S.

updated 6/1/2007 4:49:54 PM ET 2007-06-01T20:49:54

Two large trucks with police escorts flashing their lights rumbled up to the world’s largest aquarium early Friday with its newest residents — two whale sharks that had made an 8,000-mile journey from Taiwan.

Veterinarians measured the new sharks and took blood samples before they were transferred by canvas harness from the trucks into their new home. The aquarium’s other whale sharks, Norton, Alice and Trixie, circled nearby, seemingly curious about the new arrivals.

The new arrival comes just over four months after the death of Ralph, another whale shark that was a star of the Georgia Aquarium when it opened in 2005.

Ralph had stomach problems that led to an inflammation of a membrane in his abdomen, according to aquarium officials. But some animal rights groups have questioned whether his death involved a chemical used in the tank to treat parasites.

The aquarium officials agree that the tank’s treatment routine — which has since been changed — likely contributed to Ralph’s loss of appetite, but they say it’s not clear that it had anything to do with the fatal peritonitis.

Taiwan fishery officials said they were satisfied that the aquarium provides quality care of the animals before sending the two new whale sharks. Nevertheless, some have protested putting additional specimens in captivity.

The two new young males were given Asian names in honor of their origins: Yushan means “jade mountain,” and Taroko was named for a national park in Taiwan.

The five Georgia whale sharks are the only whale sharks on display outside of Asia. Georgia Aquarium scientists say the 6-million-gallon tank should be roomy enough for the massive sharks — which can grow up to 40 feet (12 meters) long.

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