The Awful Backstory of the Viral Rugby-Fetching Beluga
Sun, April 11, 2021

The Awful Backstory of the Viral Rugby-Fetching Beluga

 

Every once in a while, we see cute videos of animals on the internet that we just want to watch over and over again. It’s why pet videos almost always go viral, and why there is no shortage of animal memes, photos, videos, and everything in between. This week it’s a beluga that takes the spotlight, but its awful backstory is making people second-guess what they see as cute on the internet. 

The viral video shows a beluga in Norwegian waters, playing fetch with some humans on a boat. The video went viral for the obvious adorable quality of the beluga coupled with the fetching behavior which is more commonly observed in domesticated house pets rather than whales out in Norway. 

So what is going on? According to SBS, a national public television network based in Australia, the video starts off with the beluga in the water just as one of the people on the “Danah Explorer,” the boat, throws a rugby ball into the water. The beluga then swims toward where the ball landed on the water, returning it to the boat. 

Recent tweets from scientists and marine biologists have sadly identified that the beluga was not, in fact, doing this to be cute — it was doing this because of survival. 

 

Photo Credit via Norwegian Orca Survey

 

Apparently, the beluga’s name is Hvaldimir, a once-captive beluga whale from a Russian military program. This fetching behavior isn’t normal of beluga whales, and various scientists explain that the only reason the whale is doing it is because the Russian military program has trained it to fetch things in exchange for food. 

In reality, Hvaldimir is alone, malnourished, and injured, and the eagerness that we see the beluga is sporting could allude to the fact that maybe it had not eaten in a while. 

 

Photo Credit via Hvaldimir Foundation on Facebook 

 

Scientist Martin Biuw of the Institute of Marine Research in Norway also clarified that it is possible the whale did not come from Russian scientists but is more likely from the navy. Professor Audun Rikardsen of the Department of Arctic and Marine Biology at the Arctic University of Norway also agrees with this assumption, saying that this is likely the work of the Russian navy in Murmansk.

 

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