Plans to create the world’s first open water sanctuary for beluga whales have been unveiled by The SEA LIFE TRUST this week.
The ground-breaking marine welfare project, created in partnership with Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) and located in Iceland, will be ready to welcome its first residents in Spring 2019. The SEA LIFE TRUST Beluga Whale Sanctuary will be one of the biggest developments in captive whale and dolphin care and the first of its kind to be created for cetaceans.
The aim of the project is to encourage the rehabilitation of more captive whales into natural environments, and one day bring an end to whale and dolphin entertainment shows.
The first to be welcomed to the sanctuary will be 12 year old female beluga whales, Little Grey and Little White, who are currently located at Changfeng Ocean World in Shanghai, China. The two whales will travel 6,000-miles to a large sanctuary in a natural bay off the southern coast of Iceland, which was chosen to provide a more natural sub-Arctic environment for these amazing marine mammals.
Andy Bool, Head of SEA LIFE Trust, said: “We’re delighted to break new ground in marine animal welfare with the creation of the world’s first sanctuary for beluga whales. This project has been years in the making and is a pioneering solution to how the aquarium industry can re-shape the futures of whales in captivity.
“This is a truly global effort and working with our partners, leading veterinarians and marine experts, we believe providing a more natural habitat for Little Grey and Little White to dive into cool waters and interact with the natural environment will greatly enhance their quality of life.”
Work has already started on the sanctuary which will comprise of a stunning natural sea inlet in Klettsvik Bay and include a landside care facility and visitor centre.
Little Grey and Little White are now 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.
Chris Butler-Stroud, WDC Chief Executive, said: “We have long applauded the commitment of Merlin and the SEA LIFE TRUST to find a better, alternative future for these belugas, which is in line with our concerns about the keeping of whales and dolphins in captivity around the world, and the need to find a solution for the thousands of individuals held.
“We are proud to have been a partner from the very beginning in this important project to improve beluga welfare and hope it will create a blueprint for further such sanctuaries for belugas and other captive whales and dolphins, which are desperately needed to address the risks captivity poses to whale and dolphin health and welfare.”
For more information about the SEA LIFE TRUST Beluga Whale Sanctuary, visit www.sealifetrust.org.
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