Dark Theory Suggests Beluga Playing Catch Is Actually Victim Of Russian Military Program

by : Lucy Connolly on : 10 Nov 2019 13:32
Dark Theory Suggests Beluga Playing Catch Is Actually Victim Of Russian Military ProgramSteveStuWill/Twitter

A beluga whale who went viral recently after it was filmed playing catch might have escaped from a Russian military spy program, researchers have warned.

The friendly-looking whale was filmed bringing a rugby ball back to a group of South African rugby fans and waiting patiently for them to throw it back into the ocean, in video footage that went viral last week.


Earlier this year, the same kind-hearted beluga whale is thought to have returned a woman’s iPhone after she dropped it into the water – resulting in squeals of delight from the woman and another viral video.

You can watch the footage below:


However, while social media users described the footage of the whale playing fetch with both a rugby ball and an iPhone as ‘amazing’ and ‘wonderful’, experts have suggested the whale could be Hvaldimir, a malnourished male beluga who is believed to be a lost ‘spy’ whale trained by the Russian Navy.


Hvaldimir first made headlines in April this year, when he was discovered near northern Norway with a harness attached to his body and a label which said ‘Equipment of Saint Petersburg’.

The lonely whale has been known to go up to boats to beg for food and appears to be tame, which further reinforces the theory Hvaldimir and the beluga playing fetch are the same animal.

Ferris Jabr, a science writer for the New York Times and Scientific American, said this was likely the case in a tweet posted to his account yesterday, November 9.


Jabr said the viral video ‘is not what it seems’ before stating that, although the video has been shared and liked hundreds of thousands of times, it is ‘not an adorable or inspiring depiction of interspecies relations’.

He continued:

It’s a tragic story all too similar to those of Keiko & Luna, orcas whose celebrity & isolation ultimately killed them far too young.

Because H. has spent so much time in captivity he seems unable to join a wild pod & remains at least semi-dependent on human care. There have been disturbing reports that H. has been injured by propellors & anglers and that people have prodded & jabbed him.

The science writer went on to say that ‘truly wild whales’ are not familiar with rugby and would not know what to do with a ball if you were to throw it at them, further reinforcing the suggestion the whale in the video is trained.


Quad Finn, a researcher of aquatic mammals, supported the theory, telling the Independent the filmed behaviour was ‘not natural’. He added: ‘That he’s malnourished and still dependent on humans for food are likely reasons for what appears to be ‘playful’ behaviour.’

Because of his past treatment and detainment, the whale has most likely become dependent on humans hand-feeding him and therefore does not appear to be able to successfully hunt and feed for himself.

Hopefully the whale will soon be able to forage on its own and join another pod of belugas who will welcome him like one of their own.


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Lucy Connolly

A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).

Topics: Animals, conspiracy, Russia, Viral, Whale


Steve Stewart-Williams/Twitter and 2 others
  1. Steve Stewart-Williams/Twitter


  2. The Independent

    Beluga whale seen playing catch in viral video ‘may have escaped Russian military spy programme'

  3. The Guardian