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Georgia Aquarium Blog

Georgia Aquarium provides an entertaining, engaging and educational experience inspiring stewardship in conservation, research and the appreciation for the animal world. Visit us at

Georgia Aquarium
Atlanta, GA

Marineland Dolphin Adventure
St. Augustine, FL

Conservation Field Station
St. Augustine, FL

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An Exciting Update on Georgia Aquarium’s Beluga Pregnancy

March 4, 2015

An Exciting Update on Georgia Aquarium’s Beluga Pregnancy!

The moment we’ve been waiting for is drawing near! Late last year, we announced that Maris, our 20-year-old beluga whale, is expecting a calf this spring. She is currently in her final trimester with her delivery expected very soon.

Pregnancy and giving birth is a delicate process for all mammals, and the aquatic environment makes it even more so with marine mammals. Georgia Aquarium’s veterinary and animal care teams continue to closely monitor Maris’ health and the health of her calf through routine blood and hormone monitoring, as well as weekly ultrasounds that allow us to track the growth and development of the calf.

We are happy to report that Maris is healthy and in good body condition and her calf appears to be progressing well. Staff has seen the calf moving while Maris swims or interacts with staff for quite some time, which is another positive sign.

The team is hopeful for a successful outcome, but remains cautiously optimistic given that this is just Maris’ second pregnancy. First-time pregnancies in beluga whales and other cetaceans are often unsuccessful in both the wild as well as in zoological facilities. Chances for a successful birth increase with each beluga whale pregnancy.

“Maris’ pregnancy has progressed normally and routine monitoring suggests that the calf’s development is on track,” says Dr. Tonya Clauss., Georgia Aquarium’s Director of Animal Health. “We are guardedly optimistic that the calf will be born healthy. If the birth is successful, there will be other early milestones to achieve, including bonding with Maris and successful nursing.”

As the birth of Maris’ calf draws near, the animal care team closely watches for any changes in Maris’ behavior, swim patterns and food consumption. The team is measuring Maris’ body temperature daily. Decreases in body temperature along with other behavioral and physiological changes are key indicators of labor. She is on 24-hour observation to allow the team to detect labor as soon as it begins.

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Spectacular St. Helena!

February 23, 2015

Return from Spectacular St. Helena!

Written by: Dr. Al Dove
Director of Research and Conservation at Georgia Aquarium

After back-to-back red eye flights and 5 days steaming aboard the RMS St. Helena, I was still unprepared for the stark, breathtaking cliffs of St. Helena when they came into view. Thrust up from the abyssal seafloor 14 million years ago, the South Atlantic island grew over the next 8 million years of continuous volcanic eruptions like a giant pancake stack, alternating layers of grim grey basalt and rusty red ash. Ceaseless pounding of oceanic swells have since shaped the rocks into dizzying 400ft walls that confront the sea in all directions, with barely a break for the occasional steep-sided valley, and only one short black-sand beach for the whole island. The first visitors must have wondered “where do we land?” and so do I.

We’ve come a long, long way to study the whale sharks of St. Helena, over 6,200 miles as the crow flies but almost double that in flight and ship routes, and I’m nervous. Anyone who relies on whale sharks showing up anywhere is foolish! Could it be that we have come all this way, only to be eluded by the world’s biggest fish? Thankfully any fears are put to rest before we even set foot on the island, when my colleague Rafael shouts excitedly “Whale shark!” as we pull slowly into the anchorage opposite Jamestown. And there it is, a huge spotty behemoth, some 30ft long, turning gently away from the approaching ship. PHEW! They’re here. OK, now we can get to work.

Over the next 14 days Rafael and I work alongside staff from the St. Helena Government Environment and Natural Resources Directorate, as well as local ecotour operators and other interested parties, to document the most newly-discovered whale shark aggregation in the world. We deploy 14 satellite tags, take biopsies for genetics, gather hundreds of photo identification images to add to the global database, and make thousands of laser measurements for a project on body size estimation in free-swimming whale sharks.

Scientifically, it is an outrageous success, and marks a bold new chapter in the whale shark research program at Georgia Aquarium. My St Helenian colleagues, led by the irrepressible Elizabeth Clingham, are delighted at the team’s progress, and so am I. I can’t wait to share the news with the team back in Atlanta, and with our other partners Mote Marine Laboratory and the Marine Megafauna Foundation. The worst part is the interminable waiting to hear back from the satellite tags, which will take 6 to 12 months to pop off the animals and report back, depending on exactly how we programmed them.

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2015 Penguin Chick Announcement

February 13, 2015

2015 Penguin Chicks Are Here!

It’s one of our favorite times of the year again…penguin chick season! We are proud to introduce four new African penguin chicks, which hatched earlier this January, to our penguin colony in our Cold Water Quest Gallery presented by Georgia-Pacific. This is the fourth consecutive year Georgia Aquarium has assisted with successful African penguin hatchings.

Learn more about their nesting season here.

This is an exciting time for our Mammals & Birds Animal Care & Training Specialist team and veterinary staff  for they are able to finally see the offspring of the birds they care for and work with every day. Over the past months, they have provided extraordinary care for the eggs in our Georgia-Pacific Penguin Nursery from tracking their development to observing the chicks’ progress once they hatched. Also, penguin chicks grow rather fast and veterinary exams are held daily in order to monitor this growth and their health.


The care of the animals is Georgia Aquarium’s top priority and we are fortunate to have such a passionate and dedicated team. Each and every day they deliver the highest level of care to ensure the wellbeing of the chicks as well as all animals.

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