August 20, 2014
The belugas here at Georgia Aquarium are an admired favorite of our guests, young and old, and inspire the message of conservation to each person who sees them. But what about their wild counterparts? As a leading conservation and research facility, Georgia Aquarium is proud of its role in the zoological community to conserve animals globally. We know the importance of animals in human care and the knowledge we are able to gain from them to better protect them. We encourage you to read the important and educational note below from our very own President and Chief Operating Officer, David Kimmel, as he talks on the efforts of our Beluga Conservation Program and the possible future of this magnificent species globally:
The beluga whales at Georgia Aquarium are beloved by our guests, staff and volunteers. These snowy white marine mammals with chirpy vocals and a soft, melon-shaped head have awakened millions of our guests to the plight of this Arctic species. The reality is that few, if any, of our more than 21 million visitors since 2005 would even know what a beluga whale looked like if not for experiencing them at Georgia Aquarium. As one of only six accredited zoological facilities caring for belugas in the U.S., guest engagement and education are obligations we take very seriously.
When guests see our belugas their eyes light up with curiosity and awe. They want to know such things as “How do they live under ice?” “Why are they white?” “Why are they called canaries of the sea?” We teach them through experiences and educational information that raises awareness to the fact that these wonderful animals are facing increasing threats in nature. Belugas in the wild are up against many challenges, including loss of food sources due to water temperature changes, and exposure to increased disturbance due to more shipping traffic and oil exploration in the Arctic. We are doing everything we can to help.
Supporting belugas globally
We are committed to saving beluga whales through the knowledge gained by having them in expert human care and through engaging the public in conservation efforts.
Research is critical to understanding beluga whales. Having them in accredited aquariums is an essential piece to the research puzzle. Because they live in remote places and spend most of their lives in the high Arctic, it is hard to study them in the wild. There are also studies that simply cannot be conducted on animals in the field. We need data from what we are learning through observation and research in aquariums.
For example, with our belugas we can measure how food translates to energy, providing a formula to determine how much food belugas need to be healthy. Only by knowing how much fish belugas need can we know how much fish can be safely harvested from the ocean. This data informs regulatory agencies, like one of our partners National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries’ (NOAA Fisheries), how to best protect populations from overfishing.