Look at This Beluga Whale Smiling After Being Rescued From Years of Captivity

Two beluga whales that were forced to do tricks in an indoor aquarium in China have been rescued and brought to a sea sanctuary in Iceland. 
August 14, 2020, 6:50am
Photo: Courtesy of SEA LIFE Trust

Most people around the world now know what it feels like to be confined in one place for months, but imagine what it must be like to go through it for years. That’s what many animals held captive in zoos and aquariums feel and while there are still many more out there in this situation, at least two beluga whales are now free and back in the sea again. Just look at that smile.

After years in captivity, beluga whales Little Grey and Little White finally found a new home in Klettsvik Bay, Iceland on Friday, Aug. 7.

The two whales were caught at a very young age and in 2011, after spending time in a research centre in Russia, they were moved to the Changfeng Ocean World aquarium in Shanghai. There, they were made to entertain visitors by performing tricks in a show.

In 2012, Merlin Entertainments, a European attraction operator that is against whale and dolphin captivity, bought the Shanghai aquarium and planned for the whales’ rescue, with the help of the organisation SEA LIFE Trust.


​Photo: Courtesy of SEA LIFE Trust

It was a long journey from China to Iceland but a team of experts and vets were with Little Grey and Little White the entire time. The whales travelled on a 12-hour flight from China to Iceland in 2019 and stayed in a landslide care facility until early this month when they were moved to their new home.

The belugas were transported using specially designed slings with custom foam matting, a truck, and the harbour’s tugboat. It took about an hour to move each whale.


They now stay in a bayside care pool at SEA LIFE Trust’s Beluga Whale Sanctuary and will need some time to adjust to their new natural environment, before their final release into the wider sanctuary. According to the organisation, the whales are healthy and feeding well.

In a video the Beluga Whale Sanctuary posted on Twitter, the two animals are seen enjoying the water and their new freedom.

“We’re absolutely delighted to be able to share the news that Little Grey and Little White are safely in their sea sanctuary care pools and are just one step away from being released into their open water home,” said Andy Bool, Head of SEA LIFE Trust.


Photo: Courtesy of SEA LIFE Trust

“Following extensive planning and rehearsals, the first stage of their release back to the ocean was as smooth as we had hoped and planned for. We are carefully monitoring Little Grey and Little White with our expert care team and veterinarians and hope to announce their final release very soon.”


Photo: Courtesy of SEA LIFE Trust

According to SEA Life Trust, there are still about 300 beluga whales in captivity worldwide.

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