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Whales from Chinese aquarium starting retirement in Iceland

A couple of seasoned performers gained a heat welcome Wednesday in Iceland, the place the 2 beluga whales that in the past lived at an aquarium in China will lend a hand populate a sanctuary for previously captive marine mammals.

Conservationists celebrated when a airplane from Shanghai sporting the whales, named Little Grey and Little White after the colours in their pores and skin, touched down at Iceland’s Keflavik World Airport.

“The whales did neatly at the flight and are in excellent form,” logistic knowledgeable Sigurjon Sigurdsson stated after the 12-year-old women had been at the flooring.

The whales, anticipated to achieve 35 to 50 years of age, would be the first aquatic animals to inhabit the sanctuary for cetaceans off Iceland’s southern coast. Their house might be a 32,000-square-meter (344,445-square-foot) sea pen at a pristine creek referred to as Klettsvik, available by way of whale-watching boats.

After an 11-hour flight, the pair’s tank used to be loaded onto a truck for a power to a harbor and the final leg in their adventure, a 30-minute boat experience to the Westman Islands archipelago. There, they’re set to stick in a specifically designed indoor pool for 40 days whilst caretakers building up their meals consumption to increase additional blubber for warmth insulation.

The whales these days weigh about 900 pounds (1,980 kilos) and feature robust appetites for herring – which used to be an very important plane snack for the not-so-frequent flyers.

Little White and Little Grey had been captured in Russian waters and offered to Changfeng Ocean Global aquarium in Shanghai some 10 years in the past. Beluga whales are local to the Arctic Ocean, now not the North Atlantic surrounding Iceland. The World Union for Conservation of Nature estimates that 135,000 mature Beluga whales reside in Arctic waters.

The Russian area is understood for “whale jails” the place orcas and beluga whales are available to buy. Beluga whales lift a price ticket of about $150,000, and plenty of are reportedly offered to sea-parks in China, in step with Russian information company RIA Novosti.

The discharge of Little Grey and Little White displays a global motion in opposition to preserving whales and dolphins in captivity. The project to relocate them started when Changfeng Ocean Global used to be obtained by way of Merlin Leisure, a British company that owns Legoland and different theme parks.

The corporate, which has a coverage in opposition to captive whales and dolphins, teamed up with the natural world fund Sea Existence Consider to spearhead the hassle.

“We’re unhappy to look them depart however we remember that they arrive from nature,” Iker Wang, head teacher at Chengfeng aquarium, stated in a press commentary.

Marianne Helene Rasmussen, a analysis professor on the College of Iceland, puzzled what the huge operation completed. Whale-watching, to her, is ready seeing the mammals of their herbal setting.

“Why deliver two whales, whose species isn’t naturally in Icelandic water, and stay them in captivity right here?” Rasmussen stated.

Regardless of the dramatic lifestyles exchange, Little White and Little Grey have now not withdrawn from the general public eye. Their presence at the Westman Islands is predicted to be a drawcard for a the city with four,000 citizens. One native excursion operator is already taking bookings.

Westman Islands Mayor Iris Robertsdottir anticipates an enormous birthday celebration as soon as the whales are launched into the sea later this summer season. It would possibly not be the primary time town gathers on the harbor to welcome a whale.

In 1998, the male orca from the Hollywood movie “Unfastened Willy” used to be launched into the similar Klettsvik creek and ready for freedom with “ocean walks.”

“That used to be an overly other challenge,” Robertsdottir instructed The Related Press. “Those belugas aren’t being educated to ultimately reside within the wild. They are going to be fed and reside best at Klettsvik.”

The whale, nick-named Keiko, died of pneumonia after a 12 months within the wild. He saved being interested in boats and different human process, and not joined a wild orca pod.

Round three,000 whales, dolphins and porpoises are held in tanks globally, in step with natural world charity Whale and Dolphin Conservation.

The Westman Islands challenge is privately funded. The associated fee has now not been disclosed. Iceland media estimated the infrastructure on my own price round $15 million.

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