AP – Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut is preparing for the arrival of five Beluga whales from a zoo and amusement park in Canada after navigating approval processes on both sides of the United States (US) border and overcoming legal challenges from environmental groups.
Government officials from Fisheries and Oceans Canada recently approved the export of the whales from Marineland in Niagara Falls, Ontario to Mystic, which specialises in Beluga research.
That follows US approval of the move last September.
Experts from both facilities were in Niagara Falls Wednesday examining the four female and one male Belugas and preparing to fly them to Connecticut as early as this weekend, according to the Connecticut aquarium’s President and Chief Executive Stephen Coan.
The whales are expected to spend a few weeks acclimating to their new environment in tanks separated by a gate from Mystic’s three current resident Belugas — Kela, Juno and Natasha — before being fully integrated into the 750,000-gallon habitat.
Coan said the whales, which range in age from seven to 12, were born in captivity and cannot be released into the ocean. He said they will be leaving an overcrowded habitat with about 50 other whales and will be at the centre of important research designed to benefit Belugas in the wild.