Russian spy beluga trying to come in from the cold

A beluga whale was discovered off the coast of Northern Norway in April 2019 wearing a harness that appeared to be fitted for potential spy gear, and bore Russian markings. He is believed to be part of a Russian program using the whales for spying purposes.

The beluga, named Hvaldimir, has been released to the wild, but currently seems to be heading in the wrong direction for finding other belguas. Link to the article in Live Science, here.

Hvaldimir is believed to be 13 or 14 years old. Male belugas reach sexual maturity at around 15, so Hvaldimir was truly a baby beluga when he was recruited by the Russians for espionage. Belugas are very social animals, so experts believe he'd be in search of other belugas, or even a mate, but he's currently swimming very determinedly in a southerly direction, away from belugas' natural habitat.

Regardless of his motivations, Hvaldimir is traveling in the wrong direction. Beluga whales only live in the high Arctic in areas such as Norway's Svalbard archipelago, Greenland, Canada and Russia. There are no known beluga populations in the waters around Sweden.

Experts aren't sure why Hvaldimir is going in the wrong direction, but it could be that he was released into Norwegian waters from his Russian home as part of his mission, so he has no knowledge of this part of the world. It is also possible that he spent a prolonged amount of time in captivity, which may have dulled his natural instincts, [French news agency] AFP reported.

So far, Hvaldimir seems to be in good health and has been seen hunting wild salmon near fish farms along Norway's border with Sweden. But previous sightings suggest he may have lost some weight, and experts are concerned that he will struggle to find enough food this far south, AFP reported.

In the three years since his release, he has spent most of his time in Northern Norway, where he was found, and sadly, experts believe he has never come in contact with another beluga. OneWhale, a Norwegian non-profit organization dedicated to protecting Hvaldimir, is seeking to catch him and bring him to a refuge in Norway.