A live orca display is reportedly planned for the Sochi Winter Olympics. Although the report has not been confirmed, the possibility has environmentalists concerned. White Sphere reportedly captured eight killer whales off the northeast coast of Japan. The whales were then transported to Nakhodka, Russia, where they were kept in “small tanks.” According to reports, The Sochi Dolphinarium plans to display two of the orcas during the winter games.
Researcher Paul Spong said capturing the whales and keeping them in captivity is “hugely damaging” to their healthy and well-being. Spong said “when they are captured their families are just ripped apart.” He also said the orcas will likely suffer sensory deprivation, which is “hugely damaging.”
Killer whales are very intelligent and social. They travel in tight-knit groups called pods. There is evidence that orcas become emotionally attached and dependent on members of their pod family.
Although they are commonly referred to as whales, orcas are actually part of the dolphin family. They can grow up to 26-feet and average more than 16,000 pounds. They are fierce hunters who often work together to identify and attack their prey.
Their size, strength, and hunting habits, have earned orcas the nickname “killer whale.” As reported by LiveScience.com, they often prey on large whales and sharks. Their only known predator is the human.
Whale and Dolphin Conservation senior researcher Erich Hoyt said an orca display at the Sochi Olympics would be deplorable:
“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… In captivity they live impoverished lives.”
Hoyt said two of the orcas were transported to Moscow. However, he is unsure if they will make it to Sochi before the Olympics begin. He said the whales were originally expected to arrive in December. However, the capture and transport were postponed.
Researchers and environmentalists are pressuring the International Olympic Committee to cancel the display. A Care2 petition urges the Government of the Russian Federation to halt the display and release the whales:
“The capture and display of orcas causes immense suffering to the whales, and poses a risk to human life… It is not something that should be associated with an event as positive as the Olympics.”
The petition to stop the orca display at the Sochi Olympics currently has 104,477 signatures.
[Image via Wikimedia]