Belugas (illustration). - Guillaume Lavallée AFP

Two belugas from China found seawater this weekend in a marine sanctuary in Iceland. “Petite Blanche” and “Petite Grise”, two females 4 m long and 900 kg each, arrived this Friday in the Klettsvik pools.

The two 13-year-old white whales will spend a few weeks in the marine sanctuary before being released in semi-freedom in a 32,000 m2 nature reserve. The Sea Life Trust association, which led the project, posted videos of their arrival.

Underwater fun 🐳

It won't be long until Little White and Little Gray will have a whole new playground, which means lots of underwater fun to be had!

- Beluga Whale Sanctuary (@BelugaSanctuary) August 3, 2020

A very gradual reintroduction

In June 2019, the two belugas had left the Chinese Changfeng Ocean World aquarium. They had crossed land and air in containers to finally arrive in Iceland, where their immersion was delayed. This is the first time they have been back to sea since their capture in 2011, said Sea Life Trust.

After having been in captivity for so long, it is unlikely that the two whales in their natural habitat in full freedom, hence their gradual reintroduction. Their release was "as crystal clear as we had hoped and planned," according to Andy Bool, head of Sea Life Trust.

The sad fate of Willy

"We hope to show that Petite Blanche and Petite Grise will flourish in this bay," continued the manager. It was to Klettsvik that the orc Keiko from the film "Save Willy" was also transferred in 1998. The killer whale was released in 2002 but failed to adapt to the wildlife. She died 18 months later from pneumonia.

Originally from Russian Arctic waters, the two belugas were captured at the age of two or three by a Russian research center. Beluga whales generally have a life expectancy of between 40 and 60 years. According to Sea Life Trust, Klettsvik Bay is the world's first “open sea” marine sanctuary.


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