The Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta has applied for a permit to bring 18 beluga whales into the country, but not everyone is happy about it.
Over 1,200 signatures have been acquired on a Petition at Change.org.
The whales would be housed in aquariums and zoological parks around the country. The petition states that the whales were taken from the Sea of Okhotsk in eastern Russia.
"Beluga whales are highly social animals who live in large pods and form strong bonds especially between mothers and calves," said the petition's creator Jennifer Mishler.
The application is part of a three-year, multimillion-dollar conservation program meant to improve the genetic diversity of belugas in captivity in the U.S. That would, in turn, make the beluga population more stable and would broaden the database of research on belugas' needs and capabilities.
"The Georgia Aquarium claims this is a 'conservation' effort, however,
these whales will likely never be released back into the ocean. Many may
die at an early age due to the stress of captivity, and Georgia
Aquarium's infant beluga whale died just days after being born in May," said Mishler.
Georgia Aquarium chief zoological officer William Hurley said there are 34 belugas in captivity in the U.S. He said many of them are past calf-bearing age, and bringing more belugas into the pool could improve the success of breeding efforts.
Copyright 2012 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation).
All rights reserved. The Associated Press
contributed to this report.
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