About 50 protected fish that were confiscated from O’Hare Airport in August are now rehabilitating in their new homes at the Shedd Aquarium.
The 102 juvenile arapaima were confiscated from O’Hare after an attempted illegal importation for the pet trade industry, according to a statement from the Shedd. Half of the fish did not survive the illegal trafficking.
The fish, commercially hatched in Colombia, were shipped illegally into the United States with as many as five to six in a bag, according to the statement. The arapaima is one of the largest freshwater fish in the world and considered a protected animal.
The surviving fish were in critical condition and received “dedicated attention,” including supplemental air and a diet of small crickets, bloodworms and small krill.
The fish were estimated to be about 6 weeks old when they arrived at the aquarium, between 3-4 inches long and weighing about 12 grams.
They now weigh about a pound each. Arapaima in the wild can grow to more than 6 feet in length and a massive 400 pounds, but the species has been decimated by overfishing.
Shedd has been permitted to keep the animals, and several have already been placed in the “Amazon Rising” exhibit, where mature arapaima are already on display. Some of the others will be sent to fellow zoological organizations.