Two beluga whales named Little Grey and Little White are swimming in the sea for the first time since 2011. In a rehoming mission that was years in the making, these two creatures were transported across continents from a Chinese aquarium to an eight-acre sea sanctuary at Klettsvik Bay in Iceland. If their smiles are any indication, they are happy to be there.
The idea to transport Grey and White came in 2012, a year after they were moved from a Russian research facility to Changfeng Ocean World aquarium in Shanghai. Merlin Entertainments had purchased the aquarium that year and was opposed to keeping dolphins and whales in captivity. The company helped establish a sanctuary, operated by the charity the Sea Life Trust, which made it a natural place for the two belugas to go.
Moving the whales was no easy feat, though—especially during a pandemic. Each beluga weighs about a ton and has a diet of over 50 pounds of fish a day. But with the help of an expert care team and independent veterinarians, extensive planning, dress rehearsals, and even specially designed slings to move them overland, the rescue was a success.
Once reaching Klettsvik Bay, Grey and White entered sea sanctuary care pools. Now, they are being monitored and provided veterinary care while they get acclimated to the new environment. Eventually, once it's determined safe, they'll enter their large forever home.
Scroll down to see photos from the amazing rescue. And to follow along with the whale’s story and learn more about Sea Life Trust, visit their Facebook page.