Two beluga whales have struggled to contain their excitement as they were transported from a Chinese aquarium to a new open-water refuge.
Little Grey and Little White have been at Ocean World in Shanghai for nearly a decade where they were forced to perform tricks and shows to audiences in exchange for fish.
Before that, they were at a Russian research centre.
After years away from the sea, they’ve been rescued by UK-based charity Sea Life Trust, who have shipped them around 6,000 miles away to a new home in Iceland. The two beluga whales will be able to swim in the open ocean for the first time in years.
They’ll first go to a refuge in Klettsvik Bay off the south coast of Iceland, before they’re released into the massive sanctuary.
Sea Life Trust head Andy Bool said: “We’re absolutely delighted to be able to share the news that Little Grey and Little White are safely in their sea sanctuary care pools and are just one step away from being released into their open water home.
“Following extensive planning and rehearsals, the first stage of their release back to the ocean was as smooth as we had hoped and planned for.
To get them out of the aquarium and shipped halfway around the world, Little Grey and Little White, both female, had to be put into specially designed slings that helped protect their bodies. They then had to survive in a lorry, then a Boeing 747-400ERF cargo aircraft and finally a harbour tugboat.
Thankfully, they’ve arrived to Iceland safe and sound.
Sea Life Trust said in a statement: “Little Grey and Little White are now in their bayside care pool and will need a short period of time to acclimatise to their new natural environment and all the outdoor elements before their final release into the wider sanctuary in Klettsvik Bay in the Westman Islands off the south coast of Iceland.
“The expert team and the independent vets were with Little Grey and Little White throughout the move and said they are healthy and are feeding after the short trip from their landside care facility back to the sea.”
It’s so nice to see them look so happy in their new surroundings and we hope they have an incredible first swim.