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A recent viral video showed a beluga whale playing fetch with sailors. However, it’s suspected that that particular whale has a murky military history.
In another instance where world is never as good as it seems, a potential dark story is lurking behind the viral video of the beluga whale playing fetch.
— Sreejith (@kk_sreejith) November 7, 2019
Researchers have pointed out that the whale is likely the whale named Hvaldimir, one that showed up on the east coast of Norway earlier this year that has been known to interact playfully and intelligently with humans.
Here is the kicker. Hvaldimir is most probably a former Russian spy whale that escaped.
The first reported sighting saw the beluga strapped into what is believed to be either a camera or weapon harness that branded the words “Equipment of St. Petersburg”.
The ease of which Hvaldimir interacts with humans strongly suggests that he is trained by humans, and the Russian navy has reportedly begun training beluga whales to guard bases, kill trespassers and lend a hand to Russian military deep-sea divers.
Fortunately, this beluga isn’t a good employee, and is far more playful with humans than you would imagine his colleagues. This is not a far-fetched narrative, as the 1980s Soviet Russia military used to employ the services of Dolphins to detect enemy weapons, though the mammal programme was closed down in the 90s.
However, a 2017 report from the defence ministry revealed that Russia had rebooted the training centres in 2014.
Norwegian marine biologists have been tracking Hvaldimir since its appearance in Norwegian waters and have stressed that it ought to be left alone to explore the sea independently as it recovers from malnourishment and unnatural care.
It was reported that Hvaldimir did not cope with open waters well at first, not used to hunting for food itself and sustaining injuries from propellers as he attempted to interact with the only species he has ever known; humans.
Hvaldimir has since come under care of the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries and has seen his physical condition approve, but the job is not over. To maximise his chances of survival, he needs to be weaned off human attention in order for him to learn how to feed and fend for himself.
This may prove to be a difficult task now that he has received international attention. Some are worried that he may suffer the same fate of Luna the orca, a killer whale who died after coming into contact with a tugboat’s propeller.
The crew on the tugboat had interacted with Luna multiple times leading up to his death. Fortunately, it is entirely fair to think that the world today is more aware of the detrimental effects of interfering with an animal’s natural tendencies, and Norway, researchers, activists and others are doing what they can to ensure Hvaldimir does not suffer a fate similar to Luna’s.