DC Update: Animal Transports to National Aquarium, Baltimore

by Leigh Clayton, Director of Animal Health

Published October 07, 2013

The most common question we get about the closure of the National Aquarium, Washington, D.C. is “Where are all of the animals going?”.

Of the 2,500 animals that currently call our DC facility home, 1,700 will be transported to our Baltimore facility. The rest will be transported to other accredited aquariums and zoos.

The key to any successful animal move is exceptional planning and great communication between all team members. In fact, we started planning these moves as soon as the closure was announced. Everyone has a role in a big move like this, from husbandry staff to veterinarians.

Today marked the first of our transport trips, which included the move of 38 animals including a giant Pacific octopus, seven plumose anemones, a peacock wolf eel, rockfish and much more! However, on any given day in the next two months, we may be transporting 20 to 400 animals.

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Every animal that moves out of the D.C. facility will receive a veterinary exam to confirm it is healthy enough for transport. In some cases, this might be a visual examination (looking at the animal in its habitat). Most fish and invertebrates get visual exams. In other cases, such as for sharks or reptiles, we may do a complete “hands-on” physical examination including evaluating radiographs (x-rays) and blood tests.

But how do you actually move fish? First, the keepers slowly coax the animals into transport nets and then quickly move them into their transport carriers. Fish can be moved in large plastic containers or placed into individual bags, depending on their size and the number of individual fish moving that day. Water from their exhibits is used to fill their transport carriers. During transport, staff monitors temperature and dissolved oxygen levels to ensure the parameters stay where we want them.

Animals coming to Baltimore will make a stop at our Animal Care Center (ACC) before being placed on exhibit. Here they will go through at least a two week observational period to ensure they remain healthy and are eating well. If we have health concerns about an animal post-move, it’s very easy to provide medical care at the ACC. Because the transport is so short and the animals are already acclimated to human care, we expect them to do well at the Animal Care Center and quickly move into our main facility!

Stay tuned for more updates as we continue to transition our DC facility! 

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