A suspected trained Russian military whale who ‘escaped’ across the border to Norway earlier this year is now missing.
Speaking to Yahoo News Australia, Eve Jourdain from Norwegian Orca Survey is concerned because the 3.6m-long male beluga’s behaviour is normally predictable.
Ms Jourdain has issued a desperate plea that anyone who sights the whale contact Norwegian Orca Survey, so they can help lure him back to the safety of the harbour.
The whale, named Hvaldimir by Hammerfest locals, sparked global headlines in April this year when he appeared in Norway wearing a strange harness bearing the words ‘equipment of St Petersburg’.
Ms Jourdain said there is little doubt the whale came from a nearby military base in Murmansk, Russia.
“I don’t think it could be anything else,” she said.
She said the military base is known to keep beluga whales in sea pens and the cost of training them is significant.
“I think the fact that no one is claiming him says pretty much everything,” she said.
Hvaldimir’s behaviour suggests he has been trained to pick up items dropped by divers.
“He loves retrieving items, so without asking he will go to the bottom of the sea and bring up a starfish,” she said.
The trained whale is unable to hunt for himself, so upwards of €16,000 (AU$25,000) has been spent supporting him - much of it on mackerel.
Reliant on humans, he would appear like clockwork for his feeding sessions with his official care group Norwegian Orca Survey.
Ms Jourdain said a witness saw a boat “luring him out” towards nearby islands.
Norwegian Orca survey then tracked the whale from 11:30pm to 4:00am on Friday night and found him in remote waters, outside of his normal territory.
Hvaldimir was located the following day at 2:00pm, but then he deep dived, was distracted by something, and did not surface.
“He’s a very acoustic animal - there’s so much going on in the water that’s not ours. It could be anything, orcas, or sounds from human activity,” she said.
Ms Jourdain is hoping someone will post a sighting of him to Facebook, so they can continue to support and feed him in the wild, until he can take care of himself.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Norwegian Orca Survey at https://www.norwegianorcasurvey.no/
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