Beluga whales are also called “white whales” because when they are fully grown they are white. There are somewhere between 50,000 and 70,000 belugas in the world today. In some areas they are common but they are in trouble and in danger of dying out in other places. For instance, beluga whales from the St Lawrence river in Canada have to be treated as toxic waste when they die as they are so full of contaminants. The pollution from nearby factories affects their breeding and their health.
Belugas are group animals and are found in the Arctic ocean and around Russia, the North American continent and Greenland. They don’t like being in ice so although they may spend summers near Greenland, they migrate to warmer areas in the autumn and stay there over winter.
They can live for up to 50 years. They tend to be eaten by killer whales and polar bears, but humans also hunt them. Belugas can see and hear extremely well but have no sense of smell.
Did you know that whales can get cancer too? A significant number of beluga whales in the St Lawrence river in Canada are dying of cancer because of chemical pollutants in the river.