19:47 GMT21 February 2020
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    The tame white beluga whale, which was found wearing a harness in Norwegian waters, has sparked fears that the adorable mammal might be an operative of the Russian Navy.

    The friendly white whale, who has sparked a spying craze in Norway, has fallen ill. Researchers feared the worst, but were able to breathe a sigh of relief as his health improved, national broadcaster NRK reported.

    "It was a tough weekend," Eve Jourdain, a marine biologist and founder of the Norwegian Orca Survey, told NRK. "He was weak, had hardly eaten, had a fever and foul odours came up from his stomach".

    The whale who since following Norwegian fishing boats to Hammerfest harbour in early May has been entertaining locals for weeks, was clearly off colour on Friday night. As his caretakers noticed, he behaved differently when they wanted to feed him. Whale experts even suspected some form of infection.

    "On Saturday and Sunday he was so sick that we were afraid we'd lose him," Jourdain said.

    Luckily, though, the whale seemed to improve during the night and seemed normal again as of Monday. Now, the researchers believe the whale must have eaten something that didn't agree with him.

    ​Tweet: "Saw this rascal today"

    Therefore, the research team are repeating the requests for the public to refrain from either feeding or petting the lovable whale.

    "We don't know what folks feed him, nor how clean the food or their hands are, so it's important that they neither feed him nor pet him," Jourdain said.

    The white whale's daily ration consists of 20 kg of fatty herring.

    READ MORE: Norwegians Have Apparently Named "Russian Spy Whale" After Putin

    The appearance of the white whale wearing a harness with a label reading "Equipment of St. Petersburg" has triggered a spying craze in Norway, with researchers, military experts and media actively peddling the idea that the mammal, who eagerly sought human contact and even performed tricks, was an undercover agent of the Russian Navy. The Russian Navy hasn't addressed the allegations.

    The craze culminated in the whale being dubbed "Hvaldimir", a portmanteau containing the Norwegian word for "whale" and the Russian name Vladimir, an apparent nod to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

    When the spying hysteria died down somewhat, another theory suggested that "Hvaldimir" was a therapy animal for sick kids. Meanwhile, the whale has entertained the Norwegian public with his tricks and even retrieved a girl's phone from the sea.

    ​"Hvaldimir" has since decided to stick around Hammerfest and has become a mascot of sorts. Nevertheless, the Directorate of Fisheries' recommendation says: "Don't feed the whale and keep away".

    READ MORE: Plot Twist: "Russian Spy Whale" Now Seen as Therapy Animal for Kids


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