The SEA LIFE Trust has confirmed that two beluga whales are about to begin the final stage of their epic journey to their forever home at the world’s first open water sanctuary for belugas.
It is a journey that began in Spring 2019 as Little Grey and Little White travelled 6,000 miles from an aquarium in China to a care facility in Iceland. The pair arrived in June, and have been cared for in a dedicated quarantine care pool since then, where experts have been monitoring them and making sure they are ready for the final stage of their journey.
Now, the belugas are ready to be transported to their new home. The large open water sanctuary is in a natural bay off the coast of the island of Heimaey, south of the Icelandic coast. Merlin Entertainments has been supporting this project since the start and helped to fund the building of the new site.
Getting ready for a safe new home
The process of moving the whales has been a long and delicate one. The pair came from Changfeng Ocean World in China, and have been carefully monitored and looked after at every stage of the process. Since their arrival in Iceland last year, the care team have been helping Little Grey and Little White to prepare for life in the sanctuary.
They have been putting on extra blubber as they acclimatise to the cooler ocean water, and getting used to the new flora and fauna that they will encounter in their new home.
“Little Grey and Little White have made amazing progress since arriving safely to the beluga whale sanctuary last year and we’re really pleased to say they are now ready to be moved into their new open water home,” says Andy Bool, Head of SEA LIFE Trust.
“This is a complex marine welfare project and our care team of world-leading experts have always been led by the individual needs of Little Grey and Little White. With current lockdown measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic due to be eased in the coming weeks across Iceland, it’s right that we make the best decision for Little Grey and Little White and move them into their new home.
“We’ll continue to carefully monitor their health and well-being, as well as the ongoing situation and Icelandic weather closely, ahead of the planned move in June.”
The story of the belugas’ journey to Klettsvik Bay is the subject of an ITV documentary, starring John Bishop, to be shown later this year.
In a statement, John Bishop said, “This has been one of the best experiences of my life. Meeting Little White and Little Grey in Shanghai last April and following their journey, which has been far from straightforward, has been a real eye-opener about the challenges faced by these animals and the dedicated people who are working to give them a better life. This is a film about hope, despair, disappointment, tenacity, realism and dreams and as I write this I still don’t know truly how it will end.”
While the SEA LIFE’s facilities are closed to the public during the coronavirus pandemic, the organisation has been providing behind-the-scenes footage of Little Grey and Little White online, as well as a look at some of the inhabitants at its Cornish Seal Sanctuary.