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Belugas unveiled: A rare encounter at Sea World San Diego

2023.12.25 19:12:27 Sojin Kim
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[Image of a beluga in San Diego Sea World. Photo credit: Sojin Kim]

In Sea World, San Diego, there is a unique creature that isn’t found often, and visitors can meet it - it is called a beluga. 

A beluga, or white whale, is a type of whale and one of the smallest whale species. 

Their size is usually 13 to 20 feet, with a weight of about 1 to 1.5 tons. 

Commonly found in the Arctic Ocean, belugas belong to the Arctic animal family, facing threats such as climate change, contaminants, prey limitations, and other factors, placing them on the protected and endangered species list.

These whales, known to be carnivores, feed on a variety of fish, including salmon, cod, eulachon, herring, flatfish, and smelt. 

They are dark gray colored when young, but as they age, their color becomes more lighter, eventually close to white.  

They aren’t easy to spot, but at Sea World San Diego, guests can experience feeding a beluga and spending time with it. 

The belugas are fed by tossing fish into their mouths. 

They don’t chew the fish; they just swallow the prey. 

Trainers mention that the teeth of belugas are only used to trap  prey. 

Their melon, a part near the head, is used to make vocalizations for communication.

Guests can learn more about belugas from the trainers.

Belugas are known to be very social animals, making it available for Sea World visitors to interact with them. 

When touched, they feel smooth and slippery, with a texture described as slime.

Belugas look and feel round, with no edges or sharp parts. 

The experience lasts around 20 to 25 minutes, and visitors need to sign up or register beforehand.

Three belugas in San Diego Sea World are named Ferdinand, Klondike, and Allua. 

Ferdinand, born in 1969 from Germany, is the oldest.

Klondike, the heaviest, is from Canada, and Allua, the largest female, is from Vancouver. 

Belugas aren’t commonly seen, attracting a large number of people to visit San Diego Sea World throughout the year.

Guests can participate in the encounter by buying tickets on the Sea World San Diego website and tickets are limited each day. 

During the encounter, guests meet at a designated meeting spot.

After trainers explain beluga preferences, fears, and basic information, guests can interact with the belugas. 

Sojin Kim / Grade 8 Session 3
Sunnyvale Middle School