Two beluga whales evacuated from Ukraine arrive in Spain

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Two beluga whales have been rescued from the besieged city Kharkov in Ukraine and taken to an aquarium in Valencia, Spain, in a complex operation.

A multinational team of experts in marine mammal care from Oceanogràfic de Valencia, Europe’s largest oceanarium; Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta; and SeaWorld were involved in the risky trip.

The pair of belugas — a 15-year-old male named Plombir and a 14-year-old female named Miranda — arrived Tuesday evening in “poor health” after a “grueling journey,” according to Georgia Aquarium.

KharkovUkraine’s second-largest city, located near the border with Russia, has seen a wave of Russian attacks in recent weeks.

Last month, a Russian attack on a megastore in the city killed 18 people, including a 12-year-old girl, regional officials said.

“The city faces an increasing threat from artillery fire, which has increased in recent weeks, with bombs falling within a few hundred feet of the aquarium,” Georgia Aquarium said in a news release.

The journey began on Monday when the team first retrieved the whales from Ukraine’s NEMO Dolphinarium and drove them 12 hours from Kharkiv to Odessa.

From there they traveled to the border with Moldova, where EU officials made arrangements to speed up border control.

A chartered six-seater plane awaited the rescue team in the Moldovan capital Chisinau to fly to Valencia, where they arrived on Tuesday.

“The health and safety of the belugas was our top priority, and these were challenging conditions, including rough roads, rising temperatures and the inherent risks of being in an active war zone,” said Keith Yip, SeaWorld animal care specialist.

The pair will receive specialized trauma care from a team of “medical, nutritional and behavioral experts” and two Ukrainian caregivers will stay with them for the first few weeks to help with their transition and care.

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