Beluga whales transported 6,000 miles from captivity in China to new ocean refuge

Little Grey and Little White to be released into open sea for first time since 2011

Kate Ng
Monday 10 August 2020 11:31
Beluga whales Little White and Little Grey transported to new ocean sanctuary home

Two beluga whales have been moved into their new home in Iceland, where they will be able to live freely in the open sea for the first time in nearly a decade.

Little Grey and Little White travelled 6,000 miles from Chengfeng Ocean World, where they were trained to perform in front of audiences. They flew for around 30 hours to the Beluga Sanctuary, run by British charity Sea Life Trust, on Heimaey Island in June this year.

According to the charity, the two 12-year-old female whales arrived safely at Klettsvik Bay, where they will stay in a bayside care pool for a short period of time to acclimatise before being released into the wider sanctuary.

Klettsvik Bay, in the Westman Islands off the south coast of Iceland, is the world’s first open water sanctuary for belugas. Once Little Grey and Little White are released, it will mark the first time they have been in the sea since they were taken from a Russian whale research centre in 2011.

Andy Bool, head of Sea Life Trust, said: “We’re absolutely delighted to be able to share the news that Little Grey and Little White are safely in their sea sanctuary care pools and are just one step away from being released into their wider open water home.

“Following extensive planning and rehearsals, the first stage of their release back to the ocean was as smooth as we had hoped and planned for.

“We are carefully monitoring Little Grey and Little White with our expert care team and veterinarians, and hope to announce their final release very soon.”

Beluga whales, also known as sea canaries for their high-pitched calls, are not considered endangered but are threatened by hunting, commercial whaling and climate change.

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