The beluga trained as a spy by Russia reappears in Sweden: scientists worried about its health

The beluga trained as a spy by Russia reappears in Sweden: scientists worried about its health

Hvaldimir is back. The good news is that he's still alive, the bad news is that he's showing worrying signs for his health. In 2019 this specimen of beluga became known after that he was found in Norwegian waters in the Finnmark region: he was probably wearing spy gear - since the Russians train these whales for reconnaissance operations - equipped with a small camera and with the inscription "Equipment St. Peterburg" on it.

This odontocete was immediately renamed as a "spy" and by the Norwegians nicknamed Hvladimir, a combination of the words "Hval" (whale in the local language) and the common Russian name Vladmir, which is also that of Putin. After suspicion that the white beluga was used for espionage activities three years ago biologists removed the harness from "Kgb" to equip it with other systems capable of monitoring only movements. Probably, experts say, the animal at the time could have escaped from a cage, where it was trained by the Russian navy and accustomed to the presence of humans.

For three years this specimen remained in Norwegian watersnear cold areas but sparsely populated by other belugas (mainly found in Greenland and the Russian and Norwegian Arctic Sea), to then make a sudden acceleration towards Sweden in the last few days. Experts - who have welcomed Hvladimir's new sighting - are now wondering why he is moving so fast.

For the organization OneWhale the cetacean, sighted near Hunnebostrand in western Sweden, shows clear signs that indicate a worrying weight loss: perhaps it is moving in a desperate search for food, after having probably spent years in captivity perhaps in some Russian facility in the Barents Sea or North Atlantic, or because it is driven by an attempt to mate.

"We don't know why he's moving so fast right now. It could be hormones pushing him to find a partner. Or loneliness, as belugas are very social, and now he could be looking for others," she said. sebastian strand by OneWhale. Over the years in captivity, according to the expert, the animal may have had enough food, a very different condition now that it is in the open sea, where it has regained its freedom.

Just as - given the estimated age of the specimen at around 13-14 years - it is possible that the beluga is in full mating phase: so far the cetacean has remained in Norwegian waters where it is estimated that it has met very few other belugas which are instead found , among the closest ones, especially in the Svalbard area. Currently, after the former "Russian spy" has become a symbol of the Norwegian coasts for years, the Swedish authorities are monitoring his movements in an attempt to take care of the animal and, as he explained Queen Haugfounder of OneWhale, from Sweden immediately showed a lot of cooperation in trying to help him, since "they even closed a bridge to protect it".

Although Moscow has denied the use of cetaceans for military matters, the saga of the "intelligence" beluga continues for now: the biologists, for how Hvladimir has handled it so far - extricating himself from the boats and managing to survive after captivity - they say that it is undoubtedly a specimen that "really showed all its intelligence".

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