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Russian Ship Takes White Whale Home

April 7, 1992 GMT

GIRESUN, Turkey (AP) _ A Russian ship has ended a fugitive white whale’s frolic in freedom that captured the hearts of children and fisherman along Turkey’s Black Sea coast.

A ship from the Sebatopol Institute caught the one-ton whale off Espiye, Turkey, on Monday and took it aboard for return to the Crimean water park from which it escaped two months ago, Anatolia news agency said.

″Our pretty guest should have remained free,″ said Sezai Olgunsoy, head of the Fisherman’s Cooperative in the Black Sea town of Gerze.

The beluga whale was know affectionately in Turkey as Aydin, which means bright. It quickly became became a favorite in Turkey, approaching jetties to accept offerings of food and allowing people to pat its head.

Travel companies organized special tours to Gerze for tourists who wanted to meet Aydin.

Thousands of Turks demonstrated against returning the whale to Russia, where rumors, denied by Russian authorities, said it was used for military purposes as a mine detector.

Professor Ivan Mukametov, chief of the team aboard the Russian ship, told reporters Monday the whale was kept in Sebastopol for scientific reasons, Anatolia reported.

″We know how much you love Aydin, but he will be more happy there with his wife Marsa,″ Mukametov said. The whale’s Russian name is Tichka.

The whale was first spotted in Gerze on Jan. 27.

It is more than six years old and consumes up to 155 pounds of fish a day.