Atlas der Säugetiere Nordrhein-Westfalens
AG Säugetierkunde in NRW
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The Beluga or White Whale belongs to the Family Monodontidae, which lives in arctic and subarctic waters and only occasionally occurs in more southerly waters. The three to six meter long animals have no dorsal fin, are of compact built and of striking crème-white colouration — an adaptation to life along the pack ice border. During their migrations white whales occasionally swim into the mouths of rivers and once did just that up the Rhine River.
On May 18, 1966 barge operators by radio reported a whale in the Rhine near Duisburg. It had already been sighted on 15 May near Rotterdam. A vessel of the water police brought the director of the Duisburg Zoo and some journalists into the vicinity and indeed they observe a four-meter long White Whale in the Rhine. The animal, called Moby Dick, keeps the press and the zoo director Wolfgang Gewalt occupied in the following days and soon becomes a political issue when it reaches the then federal capital Bonn during a NATO conference. Repeated capture attempts fail and arouse the resistance of conservationists. The tabloid press even involved a blimp. When the whale swam downstream in the Rhine the Dutch tried to guide it back to the sea but the whale ended up in the Isselmeer. From there it migrated back to Germany one more time, then turned northward and finally reached the North Sea on June 16.
Hutterer R (2023): Beluga (Weißwal) (Delphinapterus leucas).In: AG Säugetierkunde NRW — Online-Atlas of the mammals of North Rhine-Westphalia. Downloaded from saeugeratlas-nrw.lwl.org on 2023/03/26