Beluga Whales Freed from Shanghai Aquarium and Released in Iceland Marine Sanctuary
Two beluga whales, formerly held captive in an aquarium in Shanghai, China, have been successfully transported to the world's first open water sanctuary for beluga whales, located in Iceland.
Little Grey and Little White arrived at Keflavik Airport on 19 June following the 6,000 mile flight from China. The whales were then transported by lorry and ferry to their new home, a large sanctuary in a natural bay on Heimaey, one of the Westman Islands, located off the southern coast of Iceland. There, they will spend 40 days in a quarantine care pool for monitoring and resting before being transferred into the secluded open-water bay.
The two whales were transported on board a Cargolux freighter aircraft in tailor-made slings and custom-built containers designed to meet their exact physical requirements. The animals were monitored by care teams and veterinary specialists to ensure they remained safe and comfortable on board during the 12-hour flight, with a Cargolux engineer onboard to ensure that flight safety requirements were met.
Andy Bool, Head of the SEA LIFE Trust, which arranged the rescue mission, said: 'We’re absolutely delighted Little Grey and Little White have safely touched down in Iceland. This is a complex but inspiring project and we’ve been working with the whales for months helping to prepare them for travelling to their new home. We'll continue to carefully monitor the whales but we’re pleased with their overall progress and welfare checks, which have been taking place throughout the relocation. The coordination of this project has been down to so many people and we’re extremely grateful for all their hard work, and are thrilled this epic journey has gone as planned.'
Richard Forson, Cargolux President and Chief Executive Officer, added: 'We are delighted that Little Grey and Little White enjoyed a seamless journey onboard our Cargolux aircraft. This epic relocation required complex logistical efforts, and we are proud to have been part of this incredible journey. We hope that Little Grey and Little White rapidly adapt to their new home and that their story will serve as a precedent for other cetaceans held in captivity.'
Created in partnership with global marine wildlife charity, Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), the SEA LIFE TRUST Beluga Whale Sanctuary is one of the biggest developments in captive whale and dolphin care and protection in decades and the first of its kind to be created for cetaceans.
Cathy Williamson, Whale and Dolphin Conservation’s End Captivity Programme Policy Manager concluded: 'Having been originally involved in discussions about a sanctuary with SEA LIFE 20 years ago, and having helped with this beluga whale project from the beginning, WDC is naturally very excited to be part of the welcoming committee for Little White and Little Grey as they touch down in Iceland. 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.'
The sheltered bay will be the world’s first open water sanctuary for beluga whales in what is a ground-breaking global marine welfare project. The bay, which measures approximately 32,000 sqm with a depth of up to 10m has been chosen to provide a more natural sub-Arctic environment and wilder habitat for the whales to call home.
For more information about the SEA LIFE TRUST Beluga Whale Sanctuary, visit www.sealifetrust.org.