A TEAM of 28 Atlantis aquarists, divers and veterinarians completed the transfer of a 1,110-pound manta ray from the resort’s 2.7 million-gallon marine habitat back into the Atlantic Ocean as part of their renowned release and research programme.
This move marks the sixth successful manta ray release for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accredited resort, whose marine husbandry practices and research have contributed greatly to the acquisition of data on this species of which little is known.
Poseidon was measured at a final wingspan of over 13-feet, with a mouth opening of 22 inches.
The one-hour process to move Poseidon involved a hand-woven net stretched across a custom-engineered frame designed to withstand the weight of the largest known species of ray.
A Eurocopter AS-350B3 Astar helicopter, with a lifting capacity of 2,500 pounds, raised the net on a hydraulically welded frame to ensure maximum safety and comfort for the animal.
Before the airlift, Poseidon received a comprehensive medical examination by the marine team led by Michelle Liu, vice president of Marine Aquarium Operations for Atlantis.
In addition, the Atlantis marine team attached an advanced version of a satellite PAT tag (Pop-Off Archival Tag) that will track Poseidon’s movements over 180 days, which is 90 days longer than in past tracking exercised.
The information gathered will give the marine team insight to the habitats Poseidon frequents, the depth and temperature ranges the animal experiences, and ultimately will help with conservation efforts.
Atlantis is home to the world’s largest open-air marine habitat with 50,000 marine animals, and a state-of-the-art rescue and rehabilitation centre.