So, this is uncool. While we’re all excited about the Sochi Winter Olympics, organizers of the big event have a horrible thing they’re hoping to display: two orca whales, who’ll be living in a “small concrete tank” after a 4,614-mile flight from the far east of Russia. A monitoring group of killer whales, called the Russian Orcas, have been reporting that they’ve seen ships capture these whales in the Okhotsk Sea with Sochi’s Aquatoria as a possible destination since 2012.
The good news is that it’s sparking a bunch of reasonable outrage. Whale researcher Paul Spong believes that not only is it not in the Olympic spirit, but it’s completely damaging to the whales for a variety of reasons. “When they’re captured, their families are just ripped apart,” Spong said. “And when they’re put into captivity, they’re really subject to sensory deprivation for years and years and years — it’s hugely damaging to them.”
Hopefully the whales are released, since it’s the right thing to do. Viewing these incredible mammals in harmful conditions is the farthest thing one can do to celebrate. This isn’t the first instance where the captivation of killer whales has been under fire. Bridgette Pirtle, who worked as an animal trainer at SeaWorld San Antonio in Texas from 2001 to 2011, recently spoke out as to how allowing these animals to be used for entertainment can be extremely cruel.
“It was disappointing to me to see more money spent on parts of the park that didn’t benefit the animals,” she said in an interview with National Geographic. “They’d spend millions of dollars renovating a children’s play area or revamping the sound system… but there wasn’t enough pool space.”
Pirtle helped out with the movie Blackfish, which questions treatment of whales in captivity and the danger to trainers who perform with the whales. The film focuses on the captivity of Tilikum, a whale who was involved in the deaths of three individuals, as well as other consequences that could occur with a whale out of its’ natural habitat. While Pirtle made sure to clear up the fact that whales and humans could form quite the bond, the film made many question as to whether or not whales and humans should have the level of interaction that might endanger them both.
It was no secret that the most popular movie star killer whale, Keiko from Free Willy, was replaced by an animatronic whale for a majority of the movie. While Keiko passed away in 2003 of natural causes, many still believe – even over a decade later! – that his long captivity was part of the reason as to why he couldn’t fully adjust back into his natural habitat. Trainer Claudia Galindo, who was familiar with the star, said “Lots of mornings upon arrival, we would find Keiko pushing his rostrum against the wall and crying. He even got a mark from how hard he was pressing against the wall and door.”
Many are staying silent about the Sochi whale captivity, although officials at Aquatoria quickly confirmed that at least one whale would be on display. In a written statement, they claimed that the whale was captured legally, and transported to a “specially equipped base” that would help it adapt to its new surroundings. Further requests for comment sent to the International Olympic Committee, Aquatoria, or its Moscow-based managing company White Sphere were ignored.
Many petitions have been started to reverse the decision to feature these Orcas. You can voice your opinion by signing, and letting others know. After all, the Olympics shouldn’t support animal cruelty.
Does this news make you think differently about the Sochi Olympics?
Image Credits: Featured