Two former captive beluga whales relocated to open water sanctuary in Iceland

Posted at 5:23 PM, Aug 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-10 17:23:23-04

Two former captive beluga whales, Little Grey and Little White, were successfully released into the world's first open water sea sanctuary for beluga whales in Iceland.

The pair were transported on Friday individually the short distance from the indoor facility to the sanctuary.

They were moved in specially designed padded slings, first on a truck and then the harbor's tug boat.

After arriving from an aquarium in China last year, the beluga whales were trained in an indoor pool to adapt to their new life.

Trainers were getting them prepared to use rocks to exfoliate, learning recall signals and to get familiarized with the stretchers that were used to move them to the sanctuary.

First stop, sea pens to acclimate before being released to the wider bay area.

"There are three things we really need to see from them before we release them into the wider bay, which is: One, they need to be eating again properly, and eating as much as they have been, back to feeding normally. They need to be healthy, so we have vets out here with the team to help that. And the third bit is that we need to make sure that their recall is as good as it was in the care pool indoors as well so when we need to get them back for medical checks or other things, we know we can do it," said Andy Bool, head of The Sea Life Trust.

While the two whales acclimate to a more natural habitat, they will add more blubber to withstand the sub-arctic water.

The sanctuary is situated in a natural and secluded bay just off the island Heimaey, off the south coast of Iceland.