Partners & Expertise

The SEA LIFE TRUST Beluga Whale Sanctuary would not exist without the expert advice and support provided by key partners to the project.

Founding Partner: Merlin Entertainments Group

On acquiring Chang Feng Oceanworld in 2012, Merlin began immediately to look for an alternative solution to care for the beluga whales there. It is from their commitment to finding this alternative that the world's first whale sanctuary was born. Their teams have provided expert support and help over many years to see the sanctuary realised and a generous multi-million pound donation from Merlin to the SEA LIFE Trust helped to build the sanctuary. We salute their genuine commitment and extend a heartfelt thank you for their very generous support.

"This world-first beluga sanctuary is an initiative that I am incredibly proud of and has taken the dedication of hundreds of Merlin colleagues around the world to become a reality. It is a project that highlights Merlin’s genuine passion for animal welfare and shows that we deliver on our promises - even when things are challenging or haven’t been done before. We hope that the Beluga Whale Sanctuary will drive change for captive cetaceans around the world forever."     

                                                                                    - Nick Varney, Chief Executive, Merlin Entertainments Group

Founding Partner: QATO Foundation

The QATO Foundation is a philanthropic giving foundation based in Denmark which supports projects that ensure and promote the welfare of animals-  especially those living closely together with people. The Foundation contributes towards long-term and long-lasting projects and is pleased to support the Beluga Whale Sanctuary over the period of three years. 

The grant from The QATO Foundation will help secure the long term vision for the sanctuary – ensuring that the welfare and needs of Little White and Little Grey always remain top priority, with their smooth transition into living a fulfilled life in the sanctuary bay.  


I’m pleased that the QATO Foundation is now a partner in this first-of-its-kind project, and that we can contribute to ensuring the welfare and needs of the beluga whales over the coming three years. The sanctuary represents a major leap for captive cetaceans – reintroducing them to a more natural environment with better opportunity to perform their natural behaviours.

- Signe Kirk Kristiansen, Founder QATO Foundation

Expert Partner: Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC)

The SEA LIFE Trust Beluga Whale Sanctuary has been many years in the planning and we have worked with some of the world’s foremost whale and dolphin experts to develop the plan for the Sanctuary.

Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) is the leading global charity dedicated to the conservation and protection of whales and dolphins. For the past twenty years, they have worked in partnership with Merlin Entertainments, and more recently the Sea Life Trust, to achieve better protection for whales and dolphins, including those held in captivity.

WDC has provided expert guidance on welfare and conservation to the SEA LIFE Trust throughout the development of this Sanctuary. 

"We have long applauded the commitment of Merlin and the SEA LIFE TRUST to find a better, alternative future for Little White and Little Grey, which is in line with our concerns about the keeping of whales and dolphins in captivity around the world, and the need to find a solution for the thousands of individuals held."

- Chris Butler- Stroud, Chief Executive WDC

Expert Partner: Cargolux Airlines

Cargolux very generously donated the flight for Little White and Little Grey to Iceland for free, but their support for this world-first project extended well beyond that. Their expert team provided technical advice and support to help ensure the belugas were kept safe and comfortable during the journey and their advice and support in unlocking the complex export and import elements of the journey was invaluable to our team. We want to extend a heartfelt thank you on behalf of Little White and Little Grey to the whole Cargolux team.

Watch the Journey to the Sanctuary

“We are delighted that Little Grey and Little White enjoyed a seamless journey onboard our Cargolux aircraft. The success of this undertaking is the reflection of the dedication and commitment of teams across all of our organisations who worked tirelessly to make this happen.

This epic relocation required complex logistical efforts, and we are proud to have been part of this incredible journey. We hope that Little Grey and Little White rapidly adapt to their new home and that their story will serve as a precedent for other cetaceans held in captivity.”

- Richard Forson, Cargolux President and Chief Executive Officer