World’s first open water sanctuary created for beluga whales in captivity
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The world’s first sanctuary for beluga whales is being created in a bay in Iceland to re-home animals kept in captivity, it has been announced. The open water sanctuary in a rocky inlet on Heimaey, an island off Iceland’s southern coast, is being created by the Sea Life Trust as a more natural home for two beluga whales which have been at an aquarium in China since 2011. The two females known as Little Grey and Little White will be taken on a 6,000 mile journey from Changfeng Ocean World in Shanghai to become the first residents of the Sea Life Trust Beluga Whale Sanctuary next spring. The move by the trust, in partnership with Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), aims to lead the way in the rehabilitation of other captive whales into more natural environments to improve their welfare. And it is hoped it will help bring an end to whale and dolphin entertainment shows in the future. Little Grey and Little White, both 12 years old, are being readied for their journey by air, land and sea to the sanctuary with a training programme which gets them used to the equipment such as stretchers used to move them. The 4-metre long (13ft) whales will also be prepared for the conditions they will find in their new home, with training to hold their breath for longer, for the dives they will be able to do in the bay, and to swim in tides and currents. Their calorie intake of a rich diet of herring and capelin is being increased to create the extra blubber they will need in Iceland’s cold subarctic waters, and their concrete pool in Shanghai is slowly being made cooler. Once Little Grey and Little White have completed their 30-hour journey with a team of vets and experts to keep an eye on their well being, they will initially be kept in a pool by the bay to acclimatise to the new conditions.
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