After 7 years in captivity, performing for audiences in Shanghai, two belugas are now enjoying swimming in the ocean again - off Iceland.
In 2019, thanks to the efforts of the UK charity Sea Life Trust, two 11 year old female belugas were freed and transported to Iceland, where the world’s first retirement home for oceanic performers is located, 6,000 miles away. The journey took 30 hours by air, land, and sea.
The whales, known as Little Grey and Little White, then spent a year being looked after inside specialized pools on Iceland's Heimaey Island. Now they’re enjoying another big change: they've just been moved to the open-water section of the beluga sanctuary in Klettsvik Bay.
It’s the first time in 11 years that the belugas have swum in the ocean where there’s lots of space for Little White and Little Grey to swim and explore, to play and make big dives in the water.
Cathy Williamson, who runs the End Captivity programme at Whale and Dolphin Conservation, told China Daily, “The world’s first whale sanctuary represents a pathway to the end of the keeping of whales and dolphins confined for entertainment. We are proud to be a partner of this important project that will improve welfare for these belugas, and show the world that there is an alternative to whale and dolphin captivity.”
Andy Bool, head of the Sea Life Trust, says of their big move: “We’re absolutely delighted to be able to share the news that Little Grey and Little White are now in their bayside care pool and will need a short period of time to acclimatize to their new natural environment and all the outdoor elements before their final release into the wider sanctuary in Klettsvik Bay.”
“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.”
Happily, these belugas can expect to live for several more decades, so should be able to enjoy life in the open ocean - their natural habitat - for a very considerable length of time.
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