Two former captive beluga whales, Little Grey and Little White, were released into the world’s first open-water sea sanctuary for beluga whales in Iceland on Friday.
The whales were transported individually the short distance from the indoor facility to the sanctuary in specially designed padded slings first on a truck and then the harbor’s tug boat.
After their arrival from an aquarium in China last year, the beluga whales were trained in an indoor pool to adapt to their new life. Trainers prepared them to use rocks to exfoliate, learn recall signals and become familiarized with the stretchers that were used to move them to the sanctuary.
The two whales also had to be acclimatized for their return to a more natural habitat. This has included adding more blubber ready for the cool sub-Arctic water and being introduced to the different flora and fauna they will experience in the bay.
The United Kingdom based charity Sea Life Trust said their new open water home was a world first for marine welfare.
Little Grey and Little White will spend their initial time in a bayside care pool before being released into the wider bay.
The sanctuary is situated in Klettsvik Bay, a natural and secluded bay just off the island Heimaey, off the south coast of Iceland. It has an area about 32,000 square meters and a depth of up to 10 meters.