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Whale Suspected of Spying Is a Hit in Norway

Beluga entertains people, but experts say he should be left to forage
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted May 2, 2019 6:02 PM CDT
Updated May 3, 2019 2:00 AM CDT
Linn Saether poses with a beluga whale, after fisherman removed a harness with a mount for camera from the mammal, in Tufjord, Norway.   (Linn Saether via AP)

(Newser) – A white beluga whale discovered last week that might have slipped away from the Russian military has become at home along the coastline of northern Norway. The whale has been entertaining people, Forbes reports, by dancing in the water, playing with balls, and letting children tap its nose. The tame whale was found by fishermen with a harness labeled "Equipment of St. Petersburg." The harness seemed to be the kind that would hold a GoPro camera, though nothing was attached. One researcher said the whale's behavior and familiarity with people suggests a life spent in captivity. The Russian navy has a presence in Murmansk, and researchers suspect that's where the whale came from. Russia has said it has no such program, and Norway is still investigating.

If it was part of the Russian navy, the Guardian reports, the whale appears to have defected. Linn Sæther, a resident of Tufjord, told public broadcaster NRK that the beluga performs tricks, then swims to the dock with its mouth open, expecting a fish. "It is a fantastic experience," she said, "but also a tragedy." Researchers worry that the whale won't be able to survive in the wild. An expert from Arctic University of Norway said people should stop feeding the whale so it can learn to forage. "It’s hard to see how it will manage on its own," he said. (Russian prosecutors are investigating pens crammed with whales, probably intended to be sold illegally.)

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