27 Jun 2018 11:17:00
The SEA LIFE TRUST announce it will create the world’s first sanctuary for beluga whales in Iceland
Created in partnership with Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, the SEA LIFE TRUST Beluga Whale Sanctuary is one of the biggest developments in captive whale and dolphin care and protection in decades and the first of its kind to be created for cetaceans. It is hoped the project will help to encourage the rehabilitation of more captive whales into natural environments in the future, and one day bring an end to whale and dolphin entertainment shows.
The sanctuary will become the new home to its first residents, two female beluga whales, Little Grey and Little White in Spring 2019.
Currently located at Changfeng Ocean World in Shanghai, China, Little Grey and Little White will take part in an incredible 6,000-mile journey and will be transported by air, land and sea to a large sanctuary in a natural bay at Heimaey, one of the Westman Islands, located off the southern coast of Iceland.
The secluded bay, which measures up to 32,000sqm with a depth of up to 10m was chosen to provide a more natural sub-Arctic environment and wild habitat for these amazing whales to call home.
Little Grey and Little White are 12 years old and each have very different and unique personalities. While Little White is shy and reserved, Little Grey is much more vocal and mischievous.
They are taking part in a special training programme designed by a team of world leading veterinarians and cetacean experts to help them adjust for the journey ahead, as well as adapt and acclimatise to North Atlantic waters. This includes:
- Introducing the belugas to specialist equipment including stretchers and platform training to prepare them for transportation
- Training the whales to hold their breath underwater for longer to get them ready for diving
- Building the belugas’ strength through fast swims in their current pool to help them adapt to the tides and current of their new home
- Increasing the belugas’ calorie intake of a rich diet of herring and capelin to support weight gain and extra blubber for colder waters they will experience in Iceland
A sustainable rehoming solution for the belugas has been explored ever since Merlin Entertainments acquired Changfeng Ocean World in 2012, driven by its philosophy to not keep cetaceans such as whales and dolphins in captivity.
The Sanctuary is set to be completed in 2019, and while it will offer limited and discreet viewing of the whales for visitors to help off-set long term running costs, this will be very carefully controlled to ensure the two whales are not disturbed in their new and very natural environment.