19 Jun 2024, 22:40

Two beluga whales evacuated to Spain from war-torn Ukraine

MADRID, June  19, 2024 (BSS/AFP) - Two beluga whales have been evacuated

from an aquarium in war-torn Ukraine to Spain by road and plane in a
"high-risk" operation, officials at their new home said Wednesday.

The whales, a 15-year-old male named Plombir and a 14-year-old female named
Miranda, arrived "in delicate health" at the Oceanagrafic aquarium in Spain's
Mediterranean port of Valencia on Tuesday evening officials there said.

They had completed "a gruelling journey across the war zone", the aquarium
said in a statement.

They were first transported overland from the NEMO Dolphinarium in Kharkiv
in northeastern Ukraine to the country's southern port of Odesa, a 12-hour

After health checks, they were taken across the border to Chisinau, the
capital of Moldova, from where they were flown in a six-seat chartered plane to

"The high-risk, complex rescue operation presented numerous challenges and
required multi-national collaboration," the statement said.

Experts with the Georgia Aquarium and SeaWorld in the United States took
part in the rescue.

A team of medical and nutritional experts are looking after the belugas in
Valencia, and two Ukrainian caregivers will stay with them for several weeks to
help with their transition.

"This courageous rescue constitutes a historic milestone worldwide in terms
of animal protection," said the head of the regional government of Valencia,
Carlos Mazon.

Russian artillery fire against Kharkiv, Ukraine's second largest city, had
intensified in recent weeks, with bombs falling just a few hundred metres from
the aquarium where the whales lived.

The director of zoological operations at Valencia's Oceanografic aquarium,
Daniel Garcia-Parraga, said if the whales had stayed on in Kharkiv "their
chances of survival would have been very slim".

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, the NEMO Dolphinarium in Kharkiv has
evacuated several seals, sea lions and dolphins, but evacuating the belugas
required months of preparations due to their size.