Rescued Beluga whales arrive in Spain

Beluga and operation team in Valencia Credit: Georgia Aquarium

Two Beluga whales were rescued from the war-torn city of Kharkiv, Ukraine and safely transported to an aquarium in Valencia.

An international coalition of marine mammal experts from Oceanogràfic de Valencia, Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, and SeaWorld coordinated the operation, according to CNN.

The Belugas, a 15-year-old male named Plombir and a 14-year-old female named Miranda, reached Valencia on Tuesday evening in fragile health after an exhausting journey, as reported by Georgia Aquarium.

Urgent Evacuation

Kharkiv, positioned near Ukraine’s border with Russia, has endured escalating Russian attacks. The Georgia Aquarium said in a press release that the city has been facing strong threat from artillery fire, “with bombs dropping within a few hundred metres of the aquarium.”

The rescue effort began on Monday June 17, involving a 12-hour drive from Kharkiv to Odesa, followed by an expedited border crossing into Moldova, facilitated by European Union officials. From Chisinau, the Moldovan capital, the whales then flew with the team to Valencia.

From War Zone to Safe Waters

Keith Yip, an animal care expert at SeaWorld, highlighted the difficulties in ensuring the whales’ well-being during the long and risky trip.

“The Belugas’ health and safety were our top priority, and these were challenging conditions, including rough roads, rising temperatures and the inherent risks of being in an active war zone,” said Yip.

The Belugas are now receiving specialized care for their trauma from a dedicated team in Spain, with two Ukrainian caregivers helping in their transition and adjustment

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Written by

Talyta Franca

Talyta Franca, Class 2026, Northwestern University in Qatar.

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