A beluga whale found wearing a harness marked ‘equipment of St Petersburg’ is now refusing to stray far from the Norwegian harbour where he was discovered.
The mammal was spotted by local fisherman wearing a mount believed to be for an action camera on Sunday – sparking fears it had been trained by the Russian military for surveillance.
Now the sea creature is hanging around the harbour performing tricks and twirls for locals in return for food.
Linn Sæther, a resident of Tufjord where the whale was found, told NRK: ‘It’s clearly used to being given tasks and having something to do.
A beluga whale found wearing a harness marked ‘equipment of St Petersburg’ is now refusing to stray far from the Norwegian harbour where he was discovered
Locals in Tufjord have been able to pet the mammal and the nose and it will even perform tricks for them. Pictured: Local Linn Sæther poses for a selfie with the sea creature shortly after its harness was removed
‘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.’
Russia has dismissed claims its ‘spy whale’ had been caught snooping on the fishing vessels of a NATO country — despite the Defence Ministry in Moscow previously admitting to experiments using these mammals for espionage.
The harness it was wearing, pictured, appeared to have a mount for a camera – sparking fears it had been trained by the Russian military for surveillance
Two years ago its official TV station Zvezda revealed a programme experimenting with whales for military purposes.
The aim was to use the sea mammals or underwater warfare roles including potentially killing intruders, it stated.
The work was done alongside Russia’s attempts to deploy seals and dolphins for military purposes.
Another theory proposed by Viktor Baranets, a retired colonel, is that the whale he whale had escaped from a civilian research institute in St Petersburg.
Others believe it may have come from St Petersburg in Florida, but Professor Audun Rikardsen at the Arctic University of Norway said this was simply too far away to be likely.
Now Rikardsen is asking residents to stop feeding the whale so it can learn to forage on its own and hopefully survive in the wild.
He added: ‘It’s hard to see how it will manage on its own. We know whales released from an aquarium can find it difficult to adapt to life in the wild.’
Professor Audun Rikardsen at the Arctic University of Norway is asking residents to stop feeding the whale so it can learn to survive in the wild on its own