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13 June, 2024
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Beluga whale trapped in Seoul skyscraper aquarium

Campaigners fight for Bella's release to marine sanctuary


In the heart of Seoul's bustling cityscape, Bella the beluga whale resides on the ground floor of the world's sixth-highest skyscraper, where she has spent a decade swimming aimlessly in a small, barren enclosure at the Aquarium of Another Life.

Activists are intensifying their campaign for Bella's relocation from the cramped reservoir, nestled among luxury shops, to a Marine Sanctuary, citing urgency before irreparable harm befalls her.

"Nearly five years have elapsed since promises of her release were made," lamented Joe Yak-Gol, representing the marine environmental organization Hot Pink Dolphins, directed at Lotte Group, the aquarium's owner. With an online petition rallying global support, activists are striving for Bella's freedom.

Bella's saga traces back to 2013, when, at the tender age of two, she was captured off the Russian Arctic coast. Alongside two male companions, Bello and Beli, she found herself confined within the 555-meter-high mega mall housing the South Korean capital's aquarium.

Despite belugas typically boasting a lifespan of 35 to 50 years, tragedy struck when five-year-old Bello succumbed in 2019, followed by the passing of 12-year-old Beli.

Public outcry ensued, fueling fervent calls for Bella's liberation, which faced setbacks, including the COVID-19 pandemic's disruptions.

Residing in a mere seven-meter-deep reservoir, well below the depth requisite for her species, Bella exhibits distress signals, indicative of psychological strain, according to Joe.

Dr. Valeria Vergara, co-director of the Raincoast Conservation Foundation Cetacean Research Program, deems captivity for such social and intelligent creatures as unethical. Belugas, renowned for intricate communication and familial bonds, endure considerable suffering in confinement.

Despite South Korea's recent ban on procuring whales and dolphins for display, Bella and her counterparts remain exempt, locked in their existing enclosures. With Bella's early separation from her natural habitat, her chances of survival in the wild are slim.

The Lotte Aquarium, a prominent attraction since its 2014 inception, draws millions annually, yet Bella's plight highlights the ethical implications of such captivity.

As pressure mounts and awareness spreads, the imperative to transfer Bella to a Marine Sanctuary emerges as the sole morally justifiable course, safeguarding her well-being and rectifying past injustices inflicted upon her.

[With information sourced from The Guardian]

Cyprus  |  animals  |  dolphins

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