Even with “Blackfish” and orca freedom movements gaining international ground, all the information available illustrating why orcas do not belong in captivity seems to be falling on deaf ears in Russia.
According to the Mirror, hunters have officially captured two wild orcas that will be kept in a “small concrete tank following a 4,614-mile flight” from Russia’s far east. The aim is to have these two orcas on display at the Sochi Dolphinarium just in time for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, which will begin on February 7.
“It’s a sad day for Russia, a sad thing for the Olympics and a very sad situation for two orcas who now will be flying across seven time zones to spend the rest of their lives in captivity,” a spokesperson for Whale and Dolphin Conservation said via the Mirror.
This capture comes just a few months after seven other wild orcas were brought into captivity from Russia’s Sea of Okhotsk. Like the new orca pair, these seven are set to live the remainder of their lives in concrete pools far from their wild homes where they once swam up to 100 miles a day.
Russia’s decision is not just a blatant disregard for marine mammal protection and the 89,813 signers of this petition urging Sochi not to display orcas. It is also a huge slap in the face to what the Olympics truly stand for.
The Olympic games showcase the brilliant and wondrous feats the human body can accomplish, but in capturing orcas, Russia has turned this celebration and competition on its head by taking away these very same brilliant and wondrous feats from another species.
What’s more, forcing orcas to lock away their natural behaviors just so a little extra cash can be made is far cry from the “moral beauty” Pierre de Coubertin remarked that the Olympic games motto, Citius, Altius, Fortius (Faster, Higher, Stronger), embodies.
There is nothing beautiful in taking away another species’ freedom. And there has never been anything moral about it either.
We spoke with Whale and Dolphin Conservation Program and Campaigns Manager Courtney Vail for clarification on the status of the two orcas slated to be on display during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. Here’s what we found out:
- The two orcas were captured at two separate times by a consortium of companies known as White Sphere, an operation associated with the Sochi Dolphinarium and other similar facilities.
- A young female orca named Narnia was captured in August 2012 in Russia’s Sea of Okhotsk, while the other orca, reportedly a young male, was captured in September 2013.
- In November 2013, both Narina and the young male orca were shipped to Moscow, with the intention of later shipment to a local facility in Sochi in time for an Olympic display.
- The two orcas have since remained in Moscow and, according to Vail, there is still no concrete verification available on their well-being and their specific holding location.
- According to Olga Filatova of the Far East Russia Orca Project, Narina and the young male orca are currently being held at the All-Russian Exhibition Center in Moscow, however they are not on display yet as the dolphinarium they may be transported to is still being constructed. It is still unknown if the orcas will be on display in Sochi during the Olympics.
- Please visit our most recent article, “Confirmed: Orcas Will NOT Be on Display for 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics,” for additional information about this issue.
Image source: Mlewan / Wikipedia Commons