In a remarkable feat of coordination and expertise, Dr. Olga Shpak, one of the world’s leading beluga whale experts, played a critical role in the rescue of two beluga whales from an aquarium in the war-ravaged city of Kharkiv, eastern Ukraine. The whales were safely transported to their new home at Europe’s largest aquarium in Valencia, Spain. This complex rescue operation has been hailed by experts as one of the most intricate marine mammal rescues ever attempted.

The Challenge

The backdrop of this daring rescue was the city of Kharkiv, heavily battered by ongoing conflict. The extraction of the belugas required not only meticulous planning but also exceptional expertise. The success of this mission hinged on the involvement of Dr. Olga Shpak, whose unparalleled knowledge and dedication made this extraordinary rescue possible.

The Unsung Hero

Dr. Shpak, an esteemed marine biologist, has dedicated her life to the study and preservation of beluga whales. However, her life took a dramatic turn when Russia invaded Ukraine. Leaving behind her research, she moved to Kharkiv and devoted herself to humanitarian efforts, collaborating with Assist Ukraine, a charity focused on aiding soldiers and civilians at the frontline.

Despite the chaos and danger surrounding her, Dr. Shpak’s unwavering commitment to the whales never faltered. Her intimate knowledge of the belugas’ needs and behavior was crucial to the success of this rescue mission. Without her presence and expertise in Kharkiv, such an endeavor would have been deemed impossible.

The Rescue Operation

The rescue began early on Wednesday morning, involving a team of dedicated professionals and volunteers who navigated the perilous environment of Kharkiv. The logistics of transporting two large marine mammals over such a long distance, particularly from a conflict zone, required extraordinary measures. The team worked tirelessly to ensure the safety and well-being of the belugas throughout their journey.

After an arduous trek, the belugas finally arrived at their new home in Valencia. The transition to Europe’s largest aquarium marks the beginning of a new chapter for these magnificent creatures, who will now be able to live in a safe and nurturing environment, far removed from the dangers of war.

Read The New York Times article here