On Tuesday, the two beluga whales Little Grey and Little White began their postponed journey from Shanghai to Iceland.
The large operation to return the beluga whales to their natural habitat began on Tuesday (18 June) after having been postponed in April. Before being put on the special plane dedicated to their transport, the two whales were put in specialised transport boxes on a lorry to get to their plane.
Cargolux's Boeing 747-400 ERF is now en route to Keflavik Airport in Iceland, where it is expected to land on Wednesday afternoon.
Once in Iceland, the beluga whales' journey is not over. A lorry, travelling via ferry, will take the whales to the island of Heimaey, which is to the south of the country. Having spent forty days acclimatising, Little Grey and Little White will finally be able to swim free in Klettsvik Bay, their new home.
The two belugas will finally experience swimming free at the Beluga Sanctuary after having spent ten years as show animals. The two whales are the first to be reintroduced to their natural habitat, but are not the last. Throughout the world, around 300 belugas are kept in captivity, despite the environment being detrimental to the whales in question.
Sea Life Trust and Whale and Dolphin Conservation have worked together on the pioneering project alongside Cargolux. The Luxembourgish freight airline has contributed its expertise alongside sponsoring the exceptional transport.
The return to the wild of Little Grey and Little White has been in the making for seven years, finally taking place now. The two whales were prepared for the 10,000 kilometre journey over the past 18 months.
Whilst the beluga whales will not be able to swim completely free, the area in Klettvsik Bay has a surface area of 30,000 square metres - 30 times the size of their concrete basins in China.
The whales' new home will be limited as, due to their lives in captivity, they would be unable to survive living completely in the wild.