Happy World Animal Day!
An update on Little Grey and Little White
As part of World Animal Day (4th October), we are celebrating the iconic duo – Little Grey and Little White! Exclusively for Merlin Backstage Andy Bool – Head of SEA LIFE Trust shares the latest news on how Little White and Little Grey are doing and how preparations are going for their release in spring 2020!
How are Little Grey and Little White and when do they move?
Little Grey and Little White are doing really well – they have recovered really well from their epic 6,000 mile journey they took in June from China and are getting on really well with their preparation for the next chapter when they move to the open-water sanctuary at Klettsvik Bay in spring 2020.
The sanctuary will be the closest thing to the belugas natural arctic habitat, with the bay area being 32,000sqm and up to 10m deep. It’s also about the freedom for Little Grey and Little White to spend their days as they want to, not dictated by humans but swimming freely, exploring the sea-bed, hunting for food and enjoy the cool waters of the North Atlantic.
What is the care pool like?
This winter period Little Grey and Little White will be in their dedicated care pool. Unlike the pool they had been in China the sanctuary’s temporary care pool has been designed especially for Little Grey and Little White and beluga whales. It includes a dedicated welfare assessment area and an underwater assessment window.
This pool has always been designed as a safe space where Little Grey and Little White (and any future beluga whales) will be assessed and cared for before moving to and from the outside sanctuary in Klettsvik Bay. It could also be used in the future for specialist medical treatments or emergency housing in severe weather or environmental conditions.
Who is looking after Little Grey and Little White?
At the SEA LIFE Beluga Whale Sanctuary we currently have a small staff team of nine (six of which are dedicated to caring for Little Grey and Little White) and we also have a visitor centre and Puffin Rescue Centre. Our core care team for Little Grey and Little White work in the behind-the-scenes area in the Beluga Care Pool where public are not able to go. Here they are working on the preparations for Little White and Little Grey to move to their new home in nearby Klettsvik Bay.
Little Grey and Little White have been captivity for over a decade and so therefore they have to build up gradually to their new home and also get used to all the various sensory changes which they will come to expect from living in the sea again.
Preparation includes providing daily sessions with the care team for both whales, lowering the water temperature to match that of Klettsvik Bay (currently 10 C), ensuring that both whales maintain their BBI (blubber body index) to stay warm in their new bay home (this is done with regular veterinary visits and medical exams) and introducing Little Grey and Little White to all the various sights and sounds they will encounter in the bay.
Even though the next move to the bay is only a 7 minute trip of about 1430 metres there still needs to be a lot of preparation for the final move to their new home. Over the next few months the care team will get Little Grey and Little White ready for that move with new specially designed transport slings, practising lifting them from the pool to the truck, which will drive to the a tug boat.
Can I visit the SEA LIFE TRUST Beluga Whale Sanctuary?
Yes! People can visit our Visitor Centre on the island which allows them to learn more about why the belugas are in the Sanctuary and the natural habitat in their bay, as well as housing a puffin rescue centre. The SEA LIFE TRUST Beluga Whale Sanctuary is run on a not for profit basis as the SEA LIFE TRUST is a charity and is a Sanctuary first and foremost.
When Little White and Little Grey are in the bay, we will also run carefully managed boat trips to enable people to view the bay from a distance and possibly catch a glimpse of the whales in their new home. The money raised from entry tickets to the Visitor Centre and boat trips out to the bay will help to fund the expert care we will be providing for Little White and Little Grey and any other belugas that join them in their new home. Allowing people to visit in this way provides funds which will help to secure the future sustainability of the sanctuary. Visitors to the Sanctuary will only provide part of the funding we need - we also rely on donations from individuals and organisations across the world to help support our work at the Sanctuary.