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August 11, 2020

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Beluga whales return to the sea

TWO beluga whales from a Shanghai aquarium have returned to the sea in an Icelandic sanctuary, conservationists said yesterday, expressing hopes of creating a model for rehoming some 300 belugas currently in captivity.

Little White and Little Gray, two 13-year-old females, left behind their previous lives entertaining visitors at the Changfeng Ocean World in June 2019 when they were flown to Iceland’s Klettsvik Bay in the Westman Islands, in specially tailored containers.

On Friday, they were moved from their landbased facility to care pools in the sea at Klettsvik Bay, the first time the two belugas have been in the sea since they were taken from a Russian whale research center in 2011, the conservation charity Sea Life Trust said yesterday.

They will stay in the care pools “for a few weeks” before they are released into the bigger sanctuary, a 32,000-square-meter sea pen that will become their home, organizers said.

Little Gray and Little White “will need a short period of time to acclimatize to their new natural environment and all the outdoor elements before they are released into the wider sanctuary in Klettsvik Bay,” the charity statement said.

After having been cared for by humans for so many years, it is unlikely the belugas would survive in the wild. The pen is thus sealed off by nets that still allow sea life, such as fish, to swim through.

Andy Bool, the head of Sea Life Trust, said the belugas’ release “was as smooth as we had hoped and planned for.”


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