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Manta Ray Arrives At Georgia Aquarium

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Manta birostris in the Gulf of Mexico. Jackie Reid/NOAA

Nandi is first manta ray ever displayed at U.S. aquarium

In a move sure to enhance its reputation as a world-class aquarium destination, the Georgia Aquarium has added a rare Giant Manta Ray to its 6.3 million gallon Ocean Voyager gallery.

The addition of the female Manta Ray (Manta birostris), Nandi, makes Georgia Aquarium the only aquarium in the United States to ever house a manta ray and one of only four aquariums in the world to display this species. Nandi will join four whale sharks and thousands of other animals in the world’s largest aquarium exhibit.

“The addition of Nandi, who inspired hundreds of thousands of people in South Africa, gives us the opportunity to elevate her as an ambassador for her species," said Mike Leven, chief executive officer of the Georgia Aquarium. Millions of people who may have never had the chance to see a manta ray will now have that chance at the Georgia Aquarium.”

Nandi, who measures more than nine feet across and weighs approximately 456 lbs, flew 9,000 miles on a chartered 747-200 aircraft from Durban, South Africa through Cape Verde, Africa, to Atlanta.

The manta ray was under the care and supervision of Georgia Aquarium and uShaka Marine World professional staff and maintained by a highly advanced marine life support system.

Nandi on display in South Africa before moving to larger quarters at the Georgia Aquarium.

“The Georgia Aquarium’s success in moving whale sharks across the world gave us confidence that this was the right thing to do,” said Dr. Mark Penning, executive director of uShaka Marine World. “We see this as a perfect opportunity to create an international partnership and continue Nandi’s incredible story, raising worldwide awareness about manta rays.”

[edit] Shark Net Rescue

Nandi was rescued from shark nets off the coast of Durban, South Africa, in April 2007 and rehabilitated by uShaka Marine World, the largest marine park in Africa. She has lived in uShaka for the past year, educating and inspiring conservation in more than 500,000 people.

Manta rays are the largest rays in the sea, but Nandi was young when she was rescued, measuring just more than eight feet across and weighing around 245 lbs. She had since outgrown her 580,000 gallon exhibit. In order to raise world-wide awareness about manta rays, Georgia Aquarium and uShaka created an international partnership to bring Nandi from South Africa to Georgia Aquarium.

“No one has ever done this before,” said Leven. “Flying the world’s largest ray, a manta ray, from one side of the world to the other and housing it in a U.S. aquarium for the first time is incredible. Having the opportunity to work with this animal and grow our understanding of this strange yet gentle giant will be an opportunity of a lifetime.”

[edit] About Manta Rays

The Giant Manta Ray is the largest of all rays, weighing up to 6,000 lbs and measuring up to 26 feet in width. It has a unique body shape, with an extremely broad head and an enormous, wide mouth flanked by two broad, flexible lobes. These fins are kept rolled and pointed forward, except when the manta is feeding. Its tail is whip-like, but short, and does not have a barb or spine. The manta ray is primarily a plankton feeder, but also consumes small and moderate-sized fishes. It is listed as “near threatened” on the IUCN Red List.

[edit] About the Georgia Aquarium

The Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, Georgia, is the world’s largest with more than eight million gallons of water and the largest collection of aquatic animals. The mission of the Georgia Aquarium is to be an entertaining, educational, and scientific institution featuring exhibits and programs of the highest standards; offering engaging and exciting guest experiences promoting the conservation of aquatic biodiversity throughout the world. The massive Ocean Voyager exhibit was built with the support of Home Depot.

Credit: Information release from the Georgia Aquarium, Atlanta, GA (August 25, 2008).

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