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Has Russian “Spy” Beluga Defected to Norway?
By Ian Bongso-Seldrup, May 4, 2019 @ 08:00 PM (EST)
Source: The Guardian

It turns out that being a spy for the Russians isn’t all it’s cracked up to be—if you’re a beluga whale. The whale in question, which was discovered at sea by Norwegian fishermen last weekend, seems to have defected to Norway. The friendly mammal has stayed put in the small northern harbor where it appeared on Monday, entertaining the locals by performing twirls and leaps and even retrieving plastic rings.

When the whale was found, it was wearing a harness fitted with a mount—which seemed to be designed for a camera or a weapon—that was reportedly stamped with the words EQUIPMENT ST PETERSBURG. Experts speculated that the mammal could have escaped from a Russian military facility, with Audun Rikardsen, a professor at the Arctic University of Norway, suggesting that the Russian Navy in Murmansk could be involved.

“He’s so comfortable with people that when you call him, he comes right up to you,” says Linn Sæther, a resident of Tufjord on the Arctic island of Rolvsøya. “It is a fantastic experience, but also a tragedy. It’s clearly used to being given tasks and having something to do. It reacts when you call it or splash your hands in the water. You can see it’s been trained to fetch and bring back whatever is thrown for it.”

For all the joy of the beluga’s presence, there is growing concern about the whale’s survivial. “It’s hard to see how it will manage on its own,” says Prof. Rikardsen, urging people to stop feeding the animal so it can learn to forage on its own. His hope is that a pod of local belugas will allow him to join them.

For its part, the Russian defence ministry has denied that it is training marine mammals in special operations. Meanwhile, Norway’s Police Security Service is examining the whale’s harness, but its investigation has not yet concluded where the animal came from.




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