Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Beluga moved to Tacoma, WA aquarium

A thousand-pound, 6-year-old beluga whale arrived at a Tacoma Aquarium early Sunday after a flight on a chartered military transport plane from Chicago. Qannik, an Inuit name for snowflake, traveled tucked inside an enormous, foam-padded tank in the DC-8 plane for a cross-country flight that cost $84,000, according to officials at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium.Aquarium officials say the entire cost to move the beluga from Chicago's John G. Shedd Aquarium to his new home was nearly $120,000.Qannik (pronounced kah-NIK') is the offspring of a female named Mauyak, who left Tacoma for Chicago in 1997. Both whales belong to Point Defiance and are participants in a nationwide cooperative breeding program.The aquarium kept the timing of Qannik's move under wraps to stave off protests, officials told The News Tribune of Tacoma. Some animal rights activists argue whales should not be held in captivity, and they oppose airlifting the marine mammals.A veterinarian monitored Qannik throughout the trip, aquarium officials said.Qannik, born in August 2000, is expected to reach 14 to 16 feet in length and possibly double his weight within a few years.In Tacoma, he'll be joining Beethoven, a 14-year-old male beluga who has been swimming solo since his tank mate, Turner, died of liver problems in September.

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