A beluga whale was found straying just a few miles from a small harbor in northern Norway on April 26. Residents have been requested by experts not to feed the beluga so that it can learn to forage.
The beluga whale has been entertaining locals with tricks and some believes it has been trained to spy for Russia. Videos posted online show the alleged Russian operative being fed by hand, dancing in circles and even checking out an inquisitive dog.
“He’s so comfortable with people that when you call him he comes right up to you,” Linn Sæther, a resident of Tyfjord on the Arctic island of Rolvsøya, told Norwegian public broadcaster NRK, which has launched a poll to find a name for the mammal. NRK received more than 1,000 suggestions, and the most popular names include Snow White, Agent James Beluga and White Russian.
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Russian ‘Spy’ Whale on Mission in Norway?
The beluga is refusing to leave the Norwegian harbor of Hammerfest after weeks of global attention. When the whale was discovered by Norwegian fishermen it was wearing a harness fitted with a mount – apparently for a camera or weapon – and stamped with the words: “Equipment St Petersburg.”
To the Washington Post, Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries official Jorgen Ree Wiig said the whale had moved only about 25 nautical miles within the past week and appeared to enjoy being close to humans, which he noted was “strange” for a beluga.
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Obedient like a dog
“The whale followed my boat on a one-hour voyage from Rolvsøya back to Hammerfest,“ local Tor Arild Guleng told CNN. “It followed me, like an obedient dog without a lead. No wild animal seeks you out, sticks its head up and allow you to stroke its nose.”
Audun Rikardsen of Tromsø’s Arctic University of Norway suspects the Russian navy in Murmansk, the headquarters for Russia’s northern fleet, could be involved.
The Russian defense ministry has, however, denied running a sea mammal special operations program and Norway’s special police security agency (PST), which is examining the harness, has not yet concluded its investigation into where the whale came from.
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The beluga’s strange behavior in approaching fishermen and their boats, researchers warned, could ultimately pose a deadly risk.
For that reason, Norwegian officials are working on a possible evacuation plan. One option, Wiig said, was to transport the animal — who has yet to be given a name — to a sanctuary in Iceland, about 1,250 miles from Hammerfest.
That plan, he said, might increase the chances for “the survival of the whale.”
Russian ‘Spy’ Whale on Mission in Norway? Written by Tor Kjolberg