Whales from Chinese aquarium starting retirement in Iceland

June 19 at four:09 PM

REYKJAVIK, 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 aircraft from Shanghai wearing the whales, named Little Grey and Little White after the colours in their pores and skin, touched down at Iceland’s Keflavik Global Airport.

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

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 known as Klettsvik, obtainable through whale-watching boats.

After an 11-hour flight, the pair’s tank used to be loaded onto a truck for a force to a harbor and the closing leg in their adventure, a 30-minute boat journey 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 building up further blubber for warmth insulation.

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

Little White and Little Grey had been captured in Russian waters and bought to Changfeng Ocean International 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 Global 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 in the stores. Beluga whales raise a price ticket of about $150,000, and plenty of are reportedly bought to sea-parks in China, in line with Russian information company RIA Novosti.

The discharge of Little Grey and Little White displays a world motion towards maintaining whales and dolphins in captivity. The venture to relocate them started when Changfeng Ocean International used to be obtained through Merlin Leisure, a British company that owns Legoland and different theme parks.

The corporate, which has a coverage towards captive whales and dolphins, teamed up with the flora and fauna fund Sea Lifestyles Believe to spearhead the trouble.

“We’re unhappy to peer them go away however we remember the fact that they arrive from nature,” Iker Wang, head teacher at Chengfeng aquarium, stated in a press remark.

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

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

In spite of the dramatic lifestyles trade, 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 party as soon as the whales are launched into the sea later this summer time. It received’t be the primary time town gathers on the harbor to welcome a whale.

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

“That used to be an overly other undertaking,” Robertsdottir advised The Related Press. “Those belugas aren’t being skilled to in the end reside within the wild. They are going to be fed and reside handiest at Klettsvik.”

The whale, nick-named Keiko, died of pneumonia after a yr within the wild. He stored being attracted to 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 line with flora and fauna charity Whale and Dolphin Conservation.

The Westman Islands undertaking is privately funded. The associated fee has now not been disclosed. Iceland media estimated the infrastructure by myself price round $15 million.

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