The friendly white whale named Hvaldimir, who sought human contact off the coast of Northern Norway after apparently escaping from captivity, fell ill over the weekend. Researchers and the founder of the Norwegian Orca Survey feared the worst, but were breathing a bit easier on Monday.
“It was a tough weekend,” Eve Jourdain, a marine biologist and founder of the Norwegian Orca Survey, told state broadcaster NRK. “He was weak, had hardly eaten, had a fever and foul odors came up from his stomach.”
Jourdain has been part of a team minding the whale since he first latched on to local fishing boats and then followed a fisheries directorate boat into the harbour at Hammerfest in early May and stuck around. He’s become a local mascot of sorts, happy to greet people on the pier and perform tricks.
The fisheries directorate ultimately decided to just let him do as he pleased, not least since the water in the harbour at Hammerfest is of good quality for the white Beluga whale to swim around in.
But he clearly wasn’t feeling good Friday night, when his minders noticed that he behaved differently when they wanted to feed him. “On Saturday and Sunday he was so sick that we were afraid we’d lose him,” Jourdain said. Whale experts who’ve been keeping an eye on him suspected he had some form of infection.
But he seemed to improve during the night, Jourdain said, “and this morning (Monday) he seemed normal again.” They now think he simply ate something he couldn’t tolerate. Jourdain and the team are repeating requests for the public to refrain from feeding or petting him.
“We don’t know what folks feed him, nor how clean the food is or their hands, so it’s important that they neither feed him or pet him.” she said. Jourdain and her colleagues, meanwhile, have been feeding him 20 kilos (44 pounds) of fatty herring every day.