Beluga whales are trained for military roles, but not necessarily by researchers.
Fishermen off Norway’s northern coast were astonished last week when they spotted a beluga whale wearing a harness, complete with mounts for a camera.
And according to marine experts, the mammal’s backstory may be even stranger: They believe it was trained by the Russian military.
Fishermen Joar Hesten was the first to encounter the whale, off the coast of Finnmark, a county in northeastern Norway. Hesten then contacted the country’s Directorate of Fisheries.
Jorgen Ree Wiig, a marine biologist at the directorate, told CNN: “The whale seemed playful but our instincts said that it was also asking for help to get out of the harness.”
The harness appeared “specially made,” Wiig said, and bore “mounts for GoPro cameras on each side of it,” while the harness clips read “Equipment St. Petersburg.”
Wiig believes the whale came from Murmansk, Russia, and was trained by the Russian navy. The navy has “been known to train belugas to conduct military operations before,” he said, “like guarding naval bases, helping divers, finding lost equipment.”
CNN has contacted the Russian authorities for comment.
Martin Biuw, a marine mammal researcher at Norway’s Institute of Marine Research, agreed with Wiig, telling CNN: “The fact that it’s a trained animal is undoubtable.”
After seeing video footage of the whale, captured by Wiig, Biuw said: “It’s quite clear that the whale is searching out the boat, and that it’s used to being around boats. The whale is coming up with its head above the water, opening its mouth, which suggests that it’s expecting to be fed fish as a reward.”
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Article Courtesy of CNN and WPIX-TV New York
First Picture Courtesy of Zahirul Alwan / EyeEm and Getty Images
Second Picture Courtesy of Rojo Gabriel / EyeEm and Getty Images