In light of the growing opposition to keeping whales and dolphins in captivity for our amusement, the host city of the 2014 Winter Olympics plans to showcase two wild-caught orca whales and use an endangered dolphin as a torchbearer before the opening ceremony during this years games in Sochi, Russia.
Russia started successfully capturing orcas from the wild in 2003, which has so far resulted in the inexcusable deaths of some who were either killed during the captures, or who died shortly after being taken into captivity. Unfortunately, quotas for 6 to 10 orcas have continued to be issued every year for the Sea of Okhotsk. Last fall another seven were taken from their families, two of whom will be moved to Sochi for display, according to Erich Hoyt, Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) research fellow, author and co-director of the Far East Russia Orca Project.
“These will be the first orcas ever displayed in public in Russia and the dolphinarium will be hoping to make money during the Olympics by holding them captive. Sadly, these two orcas will have to endure a stressful journey, flying across seven time zones, some 7,427 kilometres (4,614 miles) to spend the rest of what remains of their lives in a small tank,” said Hoyt.
What we already know about the lives and behavior of orcas in the wild, their strong family bonds and what captivity does to them should be enough to deter us from ever trying to take them from the ocean only to deprive them of their freedom and confine them in stark tanks for entertainment or the guise of education, but there’s money to be made in this business, so it goes on.
Taking the orcas for display was bad enough, but Russia has added insult to injury with its announcement in October that it would be using a wild-caught Black Sea bottlenose dolphin as a torchbearer before the opening ceremony. A trainer will reportedly hold the dolphin’s fin with one hand and the torch with the other while they swim across a small pool on February 4.
Incidentally, Black Sea bottlenose dolphins are listed as endangered on the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species. According to the IUCN, one of the reasons for their decline is live capture, yet in recent years 10–20 dolphins have been taken annually in the spring from a small area in the Kerch Strait – many of whom were sold into the entertainment industry.
As the Digital Journal notes, not only do these animals have nothing to do with the games, but using them flies in the face of the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) Environmental Mandate, which makes conservation a top priority, and Agenda 21, which insists the games will be conducted, “with the preservation of the natural environment in mind,” and strongly suggests that “all upcoming Olympic developments will be carried out with a commitment to environmental consciousness and sustainability.”
Apparently, Russia didn’t get the memo.
The move has led to opposition from the public and organizations including WDC and the Global Olympics Dolphin Campaign, which is not only opposing their use in Sochi, but is also fighting against Japan’s bid to host the 2020 games because of its participation in whale and dolphin slaughter.
Please sign and share the petition asking Russia to release these orcas immediately and refrain from taking any more from the wild.
Photo credit: Thinkstock