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Giant manta ray moves into Georgia Aquarium

/ Source: The Associated Press

The Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta is now home to a new manta ray from South Africa — making it one of the few aquariums in the world with enough space to house one of the giant creatures.

The ray, named Nandi, was rescued from shark nets along the South African coast last year, and becomes the only one on display in the United States. It joins rays on display in just three other countries: Japan, Spain and the Bahamas.

Most aquariums cannot house a manta ray because of how large the animal gets — up to 26 feet (7.9 meters) across and weighing about 6,000 pounds (2,700 kilograms).

The Georgia Aquarium says it has the largest tank in the world, a 6.3-million-gallon (23.8-million-liter) salt water exhibit that has plenty of room for Nandi, who is about 9 feet (2.7 meters) from the tip of one wing to the other and still growing.

Aquarium officials chartered a jumbo jet to fly Nandi the 9,000 miles (14,500 kilometers) from uShaka Marine World in Durban, South Africa, to Atlanta, after she outgrew her tank, aquarium spokesman Dave Santucci said.

On Friday, Nandi was released to test the waters before her official public debut Monday.

Manta rays are listed as a threatened species. The mammoth diamond-shaped animal has a black top and white bottom with wings that move gracefully up and down as they swim through the water.