Russia has recently started capturing wild orcas for display and export. As has become all too obvious in the last couple of decades, captivity is a terrible thing for orcas, even more so when they have been torn from the wild. A great deal of controversy has been aroused by America’s notorious SeaWorld, but it is not the only place exploiting killer whales.
The latest development is that host city for the 2014 Winter Olympics, Sochi in Russia, is getting involved. The city has a dolphinarium, and two wild-caught orcas are being flown in, seemingly in the hopes of making more money during the Winter Olympics.
The capture and display of orcas causes immense suffering to the whales, and poses a risk to human life – some animals become psychotic with the stress. Orcas in the wild have an average life expectancy of 30 to 50 years—their estimated maximum lifespan is 60 to 70 years for males and 80 to over 100 for females. The median age of orcas in captivity is only 9, and orcas in captivity rarely make it even to the average life expectancy of their wild cousins.
All captive adult male orcas have collapsed dorsal fins, likely because they have no space in which to swim freely and are fed an unnatural diet of thawed dead fish.
Orcas in captivity gnaw at iron bars and concrete from stress, anxiety, and boredom, sometimes breaking their teeth and resulting in painful dental drilling without anesthesia.
This shameful act is not something that should be associated with an event as positive as the Olympics.
Tell Russia to release the orcas it has just caught and not become any further involved in this brutal practice.