The beluga, who some allege is a Russian spy whale, seems to have defected to Norway. The adorable mammal hasn’t strayed more than a few miles from the town where it was first identified. Not only that, but according to The Washington Post, the whale has been coming up to people for nose pats and doing tricks for locals.
The whale was found on Sunday by a Norwegian fisherman, wearing a harness fitted with a mount that was stamped with the words “Equipment St Petersburg.” The harness was apparently capable of holding a camera or weapon, prompting locals to suggest that perhaps the whale was a trained Russian spy. The idea isn’t without precedent, because some experts believe that the Russian navy has been training sea mammals for special operations for years.
Martin Bernsen, Norway’s Police Security Service communications adviser, commented on the unusual whale.
“We must admit that examining technical equipment attached to whales is not a daily occurrence for PST. It is unclear if we will find anything,” he said. “The whale is not a suspect in our investigation, for now.”
The beluga is clearly comfortable with people, which indicates that it was likely trained or raised by humans before it made its way to Norway. It allows people to pet it, and it even performs tricks, like fetching plastic rings or leaping in the water. It will often return to the dock for a treat after performing, according to reporting from The Guardian.
“It’s clearly used to being given tasks and having something to do,” Linn Sæther, a resident of the island said. “It reacts when you call it or splash your hands in the water. You can see it’s been trained to fetch and bring back whatever is thrown for it.”
THE BELUGA HAS DEFECTED— Ashe Schow (@AsheSchow) May 2, 2019
I REPEAT, THE BELUGA HAS DEFECTEDhttps://t.co/bKdq8VetY4
Some experts think that the whale may not be able to survive without humans, and its need for social interaction has prompted it to approach boats. One local fisherman said that the whale follows the fishermen.
“It followed me, like an obedient dog without a lead,” Arlid Guleng said. “No wild animal seeks you out, sticks its head up and allow you to stroke its nose.”
Researchers warn that this could put the beluga at risk for injury or even getting killed, which has prompted locals to work on finding a way to get the whale to a rescue sanctuary, where it can live out its life in peace.