A beluga whale, which rose to fame in 2019 after it was suspected of being trained by the Russian military, appeared off the southwestern coast of Sweden on Sunday, prompting the organization tracking it to work with authorities to ensure the whale’s safety.
- “Hvaldimir”—a nickname that combines the Norwegian word for whale and Vladimir—was first seen in 2019 near the (northern) Finnmark region of Norway, wearing a strap with a GoPro camera mount attached to it, which read “Equipment St. Petersburg,” which led to This led to unconfirmed speculation that Beluga was an underwater spy trained in Russia.
- The beluga whale has spent more than three years making its way along the Norwegian coast, but its discovery offshore Sunday has some biologists wondering why Hvaldemir moved “so quickly from its natural habitat,” according to AFP. -Bryce.
- Hvaldimir is believed to be around 13 years old, an age when beluga hormone levels spike, leading the biologist to suggest the whale might be moving quickly in search of a mate.
- OneWhale, an organization that tracks beluga whales, said in a press release that it is working with Swedish authorities and that plans are “in the works to move the whale north to Arctic waters” where it will be closer to other belugas.
The beluga whale was also spotted early last week near Oslo, prompting the director of the Norwegian Fisheries Directorate, Frank Bakke-Jensen, to ask people to stay away from the whale to avoid injury or death, although “so far there have been only Minor incidents in which the whale sustained minor injuries, mostly from contact with boats.”
When Hvaldemir was first seen in 2019, his discovery made headlines around the world as people feared he had been trained in espionage by the Russian military. A Norwegian biologist told CNN that the Russian Navy “has been known to train beluga whales for military operations before…such as guarding naval bases, assisting divers and searching for lost equipment.” Since the discovery of the white whale, Russia has not officially responded to speculation that it could be a “Russian spy”. Hvaldemir was stripped of his saddle after his discovery, and OneWhale said he believes he “has been part of a Russian military marine mammal program for several years” and has been living alone for four years, even though beluga whales are “very social whales.” “Hvaldemir’s situation remains very vulnerable because Sweden is a very densely populated country, but we are very grateful to the Swedish authorities for taking swift action to take care of the whale,” said OneWhale President Rich German.
The OneWhale Society plans to create a 2 square kilometer marine reserve where the whale can live until an attempt is made to release it into a group of wild belugas.