Atlantis Releases "Sammy" the Whale Shark from Captivity

Zac Wolf, Wikimedia Commons

After criticism from environmentalists, Sammy, the whale shark held in captivity at the Atlantis hotel in Dubai has been released back into the wild.

According to international standards, the shark was held in the hotel aquarium illegally. The Atlantis acquired the shark after fishermen found it struggling to survive in shallow waters.Although the Atlantis did have the right to rescue the fish and help it recover, the hotel received no permit to keep the wild-caught animal. The hotel does have a permit to keep 20 dolphins caught in the wild.

The hotel announced it freed the 13-foot female shark into the Persian Gulf, but did not say exactly when it was released or provide any documentation. Several sources say the juvenile shark has been tagged for research purposes.

Gulf News takes credit for leading the campaign for Sammy's release nearly a year ago, creating badges, bumper stickers, a Facebook group, and even a jingle that demanded the whale shark's release.

Whale sharks, known for their flat head and checkerboard-patterned markings, are the largest fish in the world and are considered a threatened species. The species is listed in appendix two of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species, and is listed as "vulnerable" under the International Union for Conservation of Nature red list.

The enormous filter feeding sharks are seen as non-threatening to humans, surviving on plankton, krill, algae and other tiny ocean species that pass through their mouths that contain between 300 and 350 rows of tiny teeth.

Watch a whale shark feature from National Geographic below:

The $1.5 billion coral pink hotel has 1,539 rooms and is modeled after a resort that bares the same name in Nassau, Bahamas. It features an "Aquaventure" theme park that houses a 264,000 gallon tank and Dolphin Bay that is home to 65,000 marine animals.

The whale shark pictured above is one of four who live at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta. Two died in captivity at the aquarium in 2007.

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