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On Monday, the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta unveiled its newest resident, Nandi - A 450 pound manta ray, with a wingspan of 9ft. Nandi is extra special given that she is the first and only manta ray in a U.S. aquarium and one of only four on display in the entire world!
The main reason for this is how large these fish can ultimately become. Nandi, who is still growing, could weigh as much as 6,000 pounds and have a wingspan as large as 26ft, by the time she is done. Most aquariums do not have the room for a fish that large. At the Georgia Aquarium, which is the largest in the world, Nandi has been housed in a tank that holds 6.3 billion gallons of seawater, giving her plenty of room to grow.
Nandi, named after the mother of the legendary Zulu King Shaka, was accidentally caught in a shark net in 2007, along the coast of Durban , South Africa. She spent a year recovering at the uShaka Marine World, the largest marine park in Africa, while they looked for a permanent home for this gentle giant.
The officials at the Georgia Aquarium were thrilled to provide Nandi her permanent home. When she was ready, they chartered a Jumbo Jet to fly Nandi across the globe. The 9,000-mile journey from Durban to Atlanta, took 26 hours - The video below tracks the entire journey.
Once here, Nandi was given a few days to get used to her new surroundings, before being shown to the public. Just four days after her epic journey, Nandi seems to have settled in quite well - showing no signs of jet lag!
Manta rays, which are endangered, are the largest of the rays and have a lifespan of between 18-20 years. While closely related to sharks, mantas are gentle animals that feed largely on plankton and sometimes small fish. They are very prevalent in the waters near South Africa and Mozambique and are often found swimming alongside snorkelers and divers.They are social animals and enjoy interacting with people. If attacked, they have very little to protect themselves besides their rough skin. However, given their size, they have very few predators in the wild. For more fun information on these stealth giants check out: http://www.adventuredivingsafaris.co.za/speciesinformation-mantarays.html and www.georgiaaquarium.org/nandi/default.aspx.