A whale that became a viral sensation after it was filmed apparently playing catch with a rugby ball with a group of men might have escaped a Russian military spy program.
Footage of the whale went viral earlier this month after it was seen chasing and returning a rugby ball to a group of South African rugby fans aboard a ship.
It has been viewed more than 19 million times on social media.
However, experts have suggested that the whale could be no inferior to Hvaldimir, a male beluga believed to have been trained by the Russian navy, The independent reported.
Hvaldimir was first seen near Norway in April 2019.
A harness was attached to his body and a label that said "St Petersburg equipment".
He is known to turn to both to ask for food and play fetch, and he is believed to have been fed by humans and unable to successfully hunt for himself.
Ferris Jabr, a science writer, said he thought the whale on the video was likely to be Hvaldimir, just as Quad Finn, a marine mammal scientist, did.
Finn said: “Hvaldimir was picked up from the sea and trained by people to do tricks like picking up items in exchange for food.
"The fact that he is malnourished and still dependent on people for food is likely to be the cause of what appears to be & # 39; playful & # 39; behavior."
Both Russia and the United States are known to have military training programs for aquatic mammals.
In April, however, a Russian military spokesman denied that Hvaldimir was associated with any training program.
In the video, the white whale can be seen swimming up close to the boat and letting someone on board take a rugby ball out of their mouth.
When the ball is thrown back into the sea, the whale will swim after it before bringing it back to the boat for it to be thrown again.
. (TagsToTranslate) Whales (t) Viral (t) Russia (t) Animals