Two captive beluga whales who had been held at an entertainment facility in China have just been given a chance to stretch their flippers in a new sea pen sanctuary. The two 12-year-old females, dubbed “Little Grey” and “Little White,” had been performing at Chengfeng Ocean World in Shanghai. They were taken to China from a Russian research center in 2011.
Last year, they were flown to a quarantine facility in Heimaey, an island off the southern coast of mainland Iceland. In August of this year, they were moved to a bayside care pool within the island’s Klettsvik Bay for a short period in order to acclimate to their new surroundings. Following this, they were to be released into the wider bay—the world’s first open water sanctuary for belugas. Unlike their tiny pools in China, their new ocean home stretches 32,000 square meters (an area equivalent to nearly 8 acres on land), with a depth of 9 meters (30 feet).