Sun, May 13, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Taiwan to send two sharks to US

AP , ATLANTA, GEORGIA

The world's largest aquarium will be adding two more whale sharks from Taiwan, a newspaper reported yesterday.

Taiwanese fisheries officials are ready to approve the export of two male whale sharks to the Georgia Aquarium, a Taiwanese whale shark expert who has reviewed the aquarium's applications told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The Georgia Aquarium became the only facility outside Asia to display whale sharks when it opened in 2005.

The death of one of the animals earlier this year, however, prompted concerns about their care and the risks involved in transporting them over such a great distance.

Zhuang Shou-zheng (莊守正), a member of the committee studying the aquarium's export application, said he and other committee members had confidence in the Georgia Aquarium's ability to care for its whale sharks.

"We decided that there are no problems with their experience and techniques" in handling the whale sharks, Zhuang told the Atlanta newspaper.

Zhuang, an associate professor at National Taiwan Ocean University, said the two whale sharks would probably be exported to the US in June. Officials are waiting for some paperwork from the aquarium before finalizing the deal, he said.

The whale sharks' arrival would raise to five the number of the creatures -- known as the world's largest fish -- at the aquarium.

The death of a whale shark in January prompted questions about a chemical used in their tank to treat parasites, which could have curbed their appetite and led to the force-feeding of the fish.

The male whale shark, named Ralph, died from peritonitis, an inflammation of the stomach lining. He also had perforations in his stomach, possibly caused by the pipe used to force-feed him.

The aquarium has declined to release the necropsy report detailing the cause of Ralph's death.

As late as last month, one fisheries official said he'd expressed reservations about transporting whale sharks so far from their native waters that they could not be returned if they became ill.

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