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How to Ship a Beluga Whale via UPS


Stashed in: Whales!, Shipping, Freakonomics

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An unorthodox situation required an unorthodox solution:

“I noticed there was a children’s train that went through the park. So, we built a rail car to connect to this train. Then, we built a crane, lifted the whales out of the water, put them in the rail car, drove the train to where these tracks went right next to the park’s outer fence, picked them up with another crane, and put them into a flatbed truck bound for the airport. In one move, we had trains, planes, and automobiles.”

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Beluga whales can grow up to 15 feet long, and weigh up to 3,500 pounds; they don't particularly like being air mailed

The plan required everything to be carefully placed and orchestrated beforehand; one little mistake could've cost the animal’s life. Expert veterinarians and translators were on hand, and the police were enlisted to clear out the highway and Mexico City International Airport. No resources were spared.

In the end, the beluga whales made a secure flight back to Atlanta, where they joined the whale sharks.

Though UPS transport was a donation, a shipment like this would’ve hypothetically come with a massive price tag. “Just to start the 747 costs $20,000,” says Matthews. “The flight cost alone to get the whale sharks from Taipei to Atlanta was something like $340,000.” Taking into account the massive teams of experts that need to be involved, the bill for these projects can easily run into the millions.

But often, adds Matthews, it was the charitable shipments that were the most rewarding.

Mind-boggling logistics and price tag aside, I thought it was now considered in humane to keep whales in captivity? Am I wrong?

You are right.  I'd be happy with a 3D whale movie.

Me too! Hopefully the IMAX people are on that.

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