Olympic controversy over Orca capture

7th Feb 2014

The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi have been surrounded in controversy since Russia won its bid to host the games. In the run up to the opening ceremony, the media has had extensive coverage on numerous issues.

One story caused a storm of protest across social media. The concern was that two wild Orca had been captured to perform at the Games. This story has also appeared in the mainstream press. Two weeks ago, the UK’s Daily Mirror newspaper reported on the case. Its article alleges:

“Two killer whales cruelly snared by hunters are to be displayed at the Sochi Winter Olympics. The mammals, which can grow up to 22ft long and swim 100 miles a day, are set to be kept in a “small concrete tank” after a 4,614-mile flight from the far east of Russia" - full article.

However, the facts underlying the rumours remain unclear. One independent media organisation that purports to uncover the truth behind the hype in such cases tracks the developments in great detail.  It seems two orcas have been caught from the wild but may actually be destined for a huge new oceanarium in Moscow. It argues that the social media rumours may have been started by tweets from an official at one of the airports charged with transporting the whales from their holding tanks in Vladivostock - full article.

Whether or not the captured orca are destined for public display in Sochi, there does appear to be an increasing interest in whale and dolphin displays across Russia, Japan and China. This is in sharp contrast to other parts of the world where such forms of entertainment are falling out of favour. Now shortlisted for an Oscar, the documentary Blackfish has raised the profile of this issue and brought it to an increasingly campaign savvy audience.

Get involved:

Understand more about the behaviour of wild whales and dolphins, help build a body of research by join ORCA as a volunteer
Read about the capture of wild orca in Russia
For further details on Blackfish