Thursday, June 20, 2019

Freight Only Airline Relocates a Very Special Cargo to a New Home

Beluga Whales Move to More Suitable Environment
Shipping News Feature
CHINA – ICELAND – Freight only airline Cargolux has successfully completed the 6,000 mile relocation flight of two previously captive Beluga whales, Little Grey and Little White from Shanghai, China to Keflavik, Iceland. The pair now face the final stage of their journey by truck and ferry to the world's first open water sanctuary for Beluga whales. The pair have been an attraction at their current home since being captured 12 years ago but the British owners of the Chinese park have come under pressure to release them to a more suitable environment.

The two Beluga’s were transported in custom-made slings designed to their exact physical requirements, and were then placed in bespoke containers. After a lorry trip from Changfeng Ocean World to Shanghai Pu Dong airport, the whales were loaded onto a specially branded Cargolux freighter.

Little Grey and Little White were monitored by their care teams to ensure they remained safe and comfortable throughout the flight. A Cargolux engineer and a team of global veterinary experts with experience in transporting marine mammals were also on board, to guarantee the whale’s welfare, whilst ensuring flight safety requirements were upheld. Richard Forson, Cargolux President and Chief Executive Officer, commented:

“We are delighted that Little Grey and Little White enjoyed a seamless journey on board our Cargolux aircraft. The success of this undertaking is the reflection of the dedication and commitment of teams across all of our organisations who worked tirelessly to make this happen.

“This epic relocation required complex logistical efforts, and we are proud to have been part of this incredible journey. We hope that Little Grey and Little White rapidly adapt to their new home and that their story will serve as a precedent for other cetaceans held in captivity.”

The 747-400ERF freighter plane was welcomed onto the tarmac with a ceremonial water salute from two fire trucks firing a water arc over the plane, in celebration of Iceland’s newest residents’ safe arrival. The project had initially been planned to take place in April but due to adverse weather conditions in Iceland, the decision was taken to delay the move of the whales until things improved.

Little Grey and Little White will now be transferred on board two lorries from Keflavik Airport before catching a ferry to Heimaey, off the south coast of Iceland. Once they arrive on the island, they will be placed in their dedicated sanctuary quarantine care pool for monitoring and resting after their epic journey. They will then move to their new home in the secluded open-water bay.

Created in partnership with global marine wildlife charity, Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), the Sea Life Trust Beluga Whale Sanctuary is one of the biggest developments in captive whale and dolphin care and protection in decades and the first of its kind to be created for cetaceans. Andy Bool, Head of Sea Life Trust, said:

“We’re absolutely delighted Little Grey and Little White have safely touched down in Iceland. This is a complex but inspiring project and we’ve been working with the whales for months, helping to prepare them for travelling to their new home.

“We'll continue to carefully monitor the whales but we’re pleased with their overall progress and welfare checks, which have been taking place throughout the relocation. The co-ordination of this project has been down to so many people and we’re extremely grateful for all their hard work, and are thrilled this epic journey has gone as planned.”

”The world’s first whale sanctuary represents a pathway to the end of the keeping of whales and dolphins confined for entertainment. We are proud to be a partner of this important project that will improve welfare for these Belugas, and show the world that there is an alternative to whale and dolphin captivity.”

The sheltered bay will be the world’s first open water sanctuary for Beluga whales in what is a ground-breaking global marine welfare project. The bay, which measures approximately 32,000m2 with a depth of up to 10 metres has been chosen to provide a more natural sub-Arctic environment and wilder habitat for these whales to call home. It is anticipated that the two new occupants will be joined by companions from a range of species during their anticipated 50 year life spans.