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Two beluga whales evacuated to Spain from Ukraine



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.

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 this week. They had completed "a grueling 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 drive. 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 Valencia.

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


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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 Carlos Mazon, head of the Valencia's regional government.

Russian artillery fire against Kharkiv, Ukraine's second largest city, had intensified in recent weeks, with bombs falling just a few hundred meters from the aquarium where the whales lived. Since Russia attacked Ukraine in 2022, the NEMO Dolphinarium in Kharkiv has evacuated several seals, sea lions and dolphins.

Evacuating the belugas required months of preparations due to their size, but 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."

Two beluga whales evacuated to Spain from Ukraine

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Source(s): AFP
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