See whale sharks feed as Shark Week returns

by: Nelson Hicks Updated:

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ATLANTA - It's back!

Shark Week, the popular week of shark-related programming on the Discovery Channel, is back for its 25th year. The week of programming offers viewers a chance to get up close and personal with sharks like never before.

GALLERY: Shark Week returns

And as in past years, the Georgia Aquarium is joining in. The aquarium has hooked up a shark camera inside the Ocean Voyager exhibit for use during Shark Week. Employees of the aquarium will be taking part in several chats throughout the week.

Nelson's News on wsbtv.com stopped by the Georgia Aquarium to get a closer look at the largest of the facility's sharks, the whale sharks.

"The first time you are in there, you're like, 'Wow, that is an enormous shark,'" Allen Wilson from the aquarium told Nelson's News. "Most aquariums, you see sharks, maybe, eight feet, 10 feet, and that's a big shark. And then you come here and the whale sharks, which are 20 feet plus, which is a huge magnitude of difference size-wise."

Whale sharks aren't just the largest sharks at the aquarium, they are the largest sharks in the world, with some growing to 40 feet. Unlike great white sharks though, whale sharks don't pose a danger to humans. In fact, guests can take part in the Gentle Giants Immersion program at the aquarium and swim or dive with the sharks. The Georgia Aquarium is the only spot outside of Asia where guests can see whale sharks.

Whale sharks at the aquarium eat twice a day, at 10:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. Guests can view the feedings and hear a narrator explain the process.

GALLERY: Whale sharks feed at the Georgia Aquarium

Food prep for the aquarium's tens of thousands of creatures begins each morning at 6:30 a.m. The whale sharks' diet consists of krill, squid, silver side fish, gelatin, vitamins and minerals. The four whale sharks at the aquarium get about 27 pounds of food at each feeding. They'll consume nearly 20,000 pounds of food each during a year.

The whale sharks have been trained to eat at certain times, so most days the sharks head to the top of the tank ready to eat. Four staff members board four different small boats atop the Ocean Voyager tank and tie onto four separate lines that nearly span the top of the tank. The staff pull the boats from one side of the tank to the other while feeding the whale sharks with four different colored ladles. The whale sharks have been trained to know which particular line they feed from and what color food ladle they should be eating from.

While the whale sharks won't take center stage during Shark Week (Typically the great white sharks are the focal point of shark week, though numerous other sharks are often shown,) they are one of the featured attractions at both the Georgia Aquarium and on the live shark cam that was installed inside the Ocean Voyager tank to celebrate Shark Week. Check it out.


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