September 23 - Earlier this month Air Charter Service (ACS) Hong Kong flew eight Beluga whales from Vladivostok, Russia into Guangzhou, China.

The large marine mammals - native to Arctic regions only - were being flown to China for the opening of a new zoo due in Zhuhai in early 2011.

A large cargo aircraft - an IL-76 - was required as the whales - which can each grow up to five metres long - and their tanks weighed a total of 32 tonnes. Because it had a non-pressurised cabin, the aircraft had to fly at a low altitude and be temperature regulated.

The shipment included five female and three male Beluga whales, eleven cargo attendants, a head veterinarian, a zoo representative and an ACS representative.

The flight took months to organise as specialist tanks had to be built. The project required extensive planning and correspondence between the zoo, the airline and ACS.

Gavin Copus, ACS Asia Pacific CEO, said: "This was an impeccably planned operation and the flight went extremely smoothly. The whales were offloaded really quickly and arrived at their final destination in comfort."