Two beluga whales, Little Grey and Little White, were rescued and brought to a sanctuary in Iceland, the first open-water beluga sanctuary in the world.
Off the arctic coast of Russia, ten years ago, two young beluga whales were captured and taken into captivity. First, they were sent to a coastal research facility. Then, they were sold to a marine park in China. There, they were trained and exploited for entertainment.
Carefully monitored by the whales’ expert care team, Little Grey and Little White were released for the first time to fully explore the natural surroundings of the wider sanctuary at Klettsvik Bay on Heimaey, one of the Westman Islands off the south coast of Iceland.
But then their fate changed, and a decade later, the whales, now named Little White and Little Grey, are becoming famous pioneers, or “ambassadors,” as Andy Bool, head of charitable organization Sea Life Trust, describes it. Because soon, they will be returned to the sea.
The whales were held in captivity in Shanghai, China, and this is the whales’ first time swimming in open water in 9 years.
The whales have been making good progress since moving to their bayside care pools in August and Little Grey and Little White’s first swim out in the wider bay is part of a carefully managed welfare programme to help introduce the whales gradually into their much larger sanctuary home.
Little White and Little Grey are being monitored to make sure they adjust to their new home.
Led by their expert care team, the ‘Little Steps’ programme will see the whales continue to be introduced to the bay (which is approximately 32,000 sqm with a depth of up to 11m – which is equivalent of the size of 17 tennis courts) and return to the sea sanctuary care pools over a short period of time while their health and well-being is assessed and monitored on a daily basis.