December 24, 2019:
Shouka, SeaWorld San Diego’s high-flying killer whale, has been photographed with some nasty looking discolouration stretching across her lower jaw. SeaWorld has failed to provide an explanation for Shouka’s discolouration but when questioned one trainer replied “the vets say it’s her hormones”. If true, it could be a reaction to any birth control Shouka may be on, if she’s on any at all. At least three female killer whales have been photographed with notable discolouration over the past year or two, although at least one was believed to be off birth control at the time making it hard to blame this method of contraception. What’s happening to these whales and why are SeaWorld so silent? I doubt we’ll ever know for sure…
Photos courtesy of @whale.photographer
November 19, 2019:
A year ago today Shanghai Haichang Ocean Park debuted its killer whale show featuring four young orcas – two males and two females – who were captured from the wild presumably in 2015. These whales are said to be healthy and have been gaining weight but their behaviour has already become quite concerning, as an investigation by the China Cetacean Alliance has revealed. One notable behaviour is vomiting. While the orcas have been observed to regurgitate their food, something also seen at other marine parks around the world, one young female was seen to purposely induce vomiting by swallowing the rope of her enrichment device and allowing it to dangle down her throat. This caused her to regurgitate a large amount of food from her stomach. It was said to happen twice in no more than 60 minutes during one visit in June 2019.
Dr Rose, a world-renowned cetacean expert who aided the investigation, commented on her behaviour: “It wasn’t natural and it wasn’t healthy, and it was almost like being bulimic. You know, eating and then throwing up, eating and then throwing up. And she did it twice, so it wasn’t just a one-time thing. She wasn’t in the show either which makes you wonder whether this is an ongoing problem…”
Something else that was witnessed during this visit was extensive scarring on the younger male orca. While he was covered in rake marks in December 2018, they had become significantly deeper and more intense by June. It’s evident he’s become a target of excessive aggression by the other orcas.
In terms of trainer interactions with the orcas, it seems that the orcas are being prepared artificial insemination as one of the trainers was seen massaging the genital area of one of the female orcas. It seems being used as breeding machines is in their future.
In other news, it’s becoming ever more evident that SeaWorld has some form of relationship with Shanghai Haichang Ocean Park. The cartoon displayed on the Jumbotron during the orca show was written by Steve Welch, who is the creative director at SeaWorld. One member of staff was seen walking out of the control room wearing a SeaWorld jacket and a training whistle. This turned out to be Matthew Fripp, former Supervisor of Animal Training at SeaWorld San Diego, who is now the Consultant of Animal Training at Shanghai Haichang Ocean Park. While Fripp no longer works at SeaWorld, and the company cannot be responsible for the career path he takes, I’m not surprised a former SeaWorld trainer would stoop so low as to helping a Chinese company profit off wild-caught orcas, are you?
October 2, 2019:
TripAdvisor becomes the latest travel company to stop selling tickets to SeaWorld. It pledges to stop selling tickets to the marine park giant by the end of 2019. Its review website and booking platform will also no longer feature or generate revenue from any attraction that profits off captive cetaceans.
September 22, 2019:
Suma Aqualife Park in Kobe, Japan, has announced plans for a major reconstruction of its entire facility to incorporate a new attraction – a killer whale stadium. According to the proposal, the aquarium will be rebuilt and hotels and restaurants will be constructed to transform the park into a seaside resort. The new aquarium is expected to open in spring 2024 with three main buildings: a killer whale stadium, a dolphin stadium and an “aqua live” stadium.
Currently only two aquariums house killer whales in Japan; Kamogawa Sea World, which houses four, and Port of Nagoya Aquarium, which houses three. Suma Aqualife Park plans to collaborate with Kamogawa Sea World to begin killer whale performances at the park, a collaboration that will likely see two of its four residing killer whales transferred to the newly renovated park. Kamogawa’s killer whale pod consists of a family unit of three sisters – Lovey, Lara and Ran 2 – and a calf, Lovey’s daughter, Luna. Separating this family across the country will be absolutely devastating for each individual. To killer whales, family means everything. Especially for those who have been stripped of everything else that’s important to them.
September 10, 2019:
Good news! Zina, an orca released from the Whale Prison on August 6th, is now travelling with a pod of 1 transient orcas. Satellite data has also indicated that Alexandra, the youngest of the Whale Prison orcas, has joined two other captive/released females.
August 27, 2019:
The remaining two killer whales held at the Whale Prison have been released into the wild! All 10 orcas are now wild and free. Hopefully those that are yet to integrate with a wild pod will quickly do so.
August 23, 2019:
Vasilievna, one of the first orcas released back into the wild after spending almost a year at the Whale Prison, has integrated with a pod of wild whales and been observed hunting and sharing food with them! This is amazing! I couldn’t be happier for her.
August 8, 2019:
A third group of killer whales once held captive at the notorious Whale Prison in Srednyaya Bay, Russia, have been released into the wild! This time Tihon, Gaika and Zoya were removed from their sea pens and handled into transport containers to undergo the gruelling six-day journey to the release site at Cape Perovskogo. For the first time Greenpeace Russia were able to observe the transport process. They documented ice being regularly added to the transport containers to prevent the whales from overheating, protective ointment being rubbed into their exposed skin and regular massages of their pectoral fins and tail flukes to keep their muscles healthy. Despite weather conditions deteriorating during the last of the journey, all three whales were lifted from their containers, satellite tagged and then successfully released into the Sea of Okhotsk. This third release leaves just two killer whales at the Whale Prison – Zina and Vitas, who will be released in upcoming weeks, potentially alongside some of the remaining 81 belugas. Let’s hope these whales stick together and find their long-lost families!
July 29, 2019:
Alexandria, the young orca lingering near her release site, has now travelled over 100km away and is located off the coast of Sakhalin, in the Baykal Bay. She remains alone.
July 25, 2019:
Disturbing footage has emerged of a young captive orca recently released from the Whale Prison into the Sea of Okhotsk interacting with fishermen and begging for food. The whale, a two-year-old female known as Alexandra, is the youngest of the three whales released less than two weeks ago on July 16th. Data collected from the satellite tags revealed that the two older orcas, believed to be Forest and Harja, have since travelled nearly 200km away from the release sight to the Gulf of Nicholas. However, Alexandra remains close to the release sight in Sakhalin Bay, alone and unable to fend for herself. Unsurprisingly, there was no rehabilitation prior to release, leaving the whales traumatised and confused. This could potentially be a death sentence.
The two orcas released on June 26th, Leha and Vasilievna, remain together. Once free, they reportedly traveled to Academy Bay, hunted there, and then went to the Uda Gulf where they continued to hunt for the following three days. After hunting in the Gulf, the whales moved along the coast to the area north of Ayan village. On July 10th, Leha and Vasilievna headed south and stayed in Borisov Bay up until July 12th when they traveled to the Shantar Islands. This is known territory for wild orca pods, although it’s currently unknown if either of the whales have met up with wild orcas.
July 24, 2019:
Alexandria, the youngest of the three killer whales recently released from the Whale Prison, remains close to the release site. The two older whales who returned to the wild on the same day are now approximately 200km away
July 22, 2019:
Virgin Holidays, one of the UK’s largest tour operator companies, will stop selling tickets to SeaWorld and other attractions that exploit captive whales and dolphins. The decision follows that of Thomas Cook, another British tour operator company, that in July 2018 decided to stop selling tickets to SeaWorld and Loro Parque due to welfare concerns over their confinement of killer whales. Starting in 2014, Virgin Holidays began separating itself from the practice of keeping cetaceans in captivity, opting to promote more natural experiences with wildlife instead. The company is also keen to continue supporting the “development of sanctuaries for whales and dolphins currently in captivity” after it pledged over £200,000 to the National Aquarium’s dolphin sanctuary in April 2018.
July 19, 2019:
The satellite tags of the two orcas released from the Whale Prison back in June have shown they’re still together and swam to areas where wild orcas are sighted frequently. They’ve also shown signs of hunting.
July 17, 2019:
Long Gone Wild has been released on all VOD platforms! The documentary explores the Blackfish Effect, the case against captivity, the Whale Sanctuary Project and the growing market for captive orcas in Russia and China.
July 16, 2019:
Three more of the Whale Prison’s killer whales have been released into the wild. The whales started their journey last Thursday when employees removed the transparent roof of the floating dock housing the killer whale pens, used nets to move one male and two females onto fabric stretchers, and then lifted and lowered them into containers of water on three trucks. The remaining animals were clearly agitated by the sudden activity as they vocalised loudly and slapped their tails against the water. Once securely in their travel containers the whales spent four days travelling to the town of Innokent’yevka of the Nikolaevskiy District where they started the final stretch of their journey – a five-hour drive to Cape Perovskogo. Upon their arrival, the whales were fitted with satellite tags and given a one-hour massage to stimulate blood flow in their tails prior to their release. They were then lowered into the water and set free. The whales grouped together and swam 300 metres away from the coast in an easterly direction. Their caretakers followed them for 15 miles and described their behaviour as calm, sometimes increasing their speed and jumping high from the water. While at one point the orcas distanced each other by 200 metres they reunited and swam off as a pod towards the open sea. The next release will occur in two weeks.
July 12, 2019:
The Orlando pod has finally been reunited almost a year after they were first separated into same-sex groups. All five whales performed together during a segment of SeaWorld’s “Light Up The Night” show.
June 29, 2019:
Loro Parque has confirmed that nine-month-old Ula has finally been introduced to the other females in the pod and is interacting with them on a daily basis. However, she has yet to meet the Park’s three male orcas, Keto, Tekoa, and Adán. Born on September 22nd, 2018, Ula spent the first 15 weeks of her life separated from the rest of the pod, including her mother Morgan. Despite Morgan’s “ideal maternal behavior” towards her calf, she was unable to produce enough milk to nurse, prompting trainers to begin bottle feeding. Direct contact with other orcas is essential to Ula’s development and wellbeing as orcas are such highly social, emotionally complex animals. Hopefully Ula and her pod-mates can make up for lost time and begin building their relationships over the following months.
June 26, 2019:
A new peer-reviewed study reveals how harmful captivity is for killer whales. Titled “The Harmful Effects of Captivity and Chronic Stress on the Well-being of Orcas (Orcinus orca)”, the study is authored by world renowned scientists Lori Marino, Naomi Rose, and Ingrid Visser, among others. Read it here!
June 27, 2019:
Eight whales once held captive at the Whale Prison have been carelessly released into the wild without any form of rehabilitation. Two killer whales and six beluga whales were removed from their filthy, overcrowded sea pens in Srednyaya Bay and transported to the village of Innokent’yevka in the Khabarovsk Territory. From here they were moved to Cape Perovskogo where veterinarians checked them over and attached satellite tags that will allow scientists to track their movements and collect behavioural data. It was reported all of the whales were in good health but videos of the release effort show highly stressed animals and blood-stained foam pads, either from injuries sustained during the transportation process or possibly the attachment of the satellite tags depending on the method used. The whales were then released without any attempt to complete the previously promised 10-day rehabilitation period.
Traumatised and confused after spending six days confined to small transit containers, the orcas stayed close to shore for the first few hours before moving to open water. The belugas headed straight to sea. These animals have spent the last year in captivity, being hand-fed by human trainers who acted as their sole source of food. They’ve now been dumped in the sea and forced to fend for themselves without the support of their families and pod members who they haven’t seen since they were first captured. Unless they are able to integrate into a wild pod, these animals are unlikely to survive on their own.
It’s important to note this plan of action is far from what was suggested by the team of leading marine mammal experts who attempted to advise on the Whale Prison’s efforts to rehabilitate and release the whales. They suggested a short-term rehabilitation plan of a few months that would involve teaching the whales the skills they need to survive in the wild, reducing their contact humans and treating them for any illnesses they’ve developed whilst in captivity. Unfortunately expert advice was all but ignored and now the lives of these whales are at great risk.
June 24, 2019:
The two orcas and six belugas taken from the Whale Prison earlier this week for release have arrived at the village of Innokent’yevka in the Khabarovsk Territory. Their onward journey will take them to Cape Perovskogo in the Sakhalin Gulf. The head of the Sakhalin Environment Watch, Dmitry Lisitsyn, warned that the animals may suffer greatly and even die while being transported to Cape Perovskogo, as the road between the two locations is very bad and has been washed out due to severe rain.
Ten days of rehabilitation is planned for the whales once they arrive at their destination. While some rehabilitation is better than none, ten days of is not nearly enough time to rehabilitate animals who have been in captivity and around people for almost a year now. The release process reportedly has to be completed by October, leaving only four months time to rehabilitate and release all 86 belugas and 10 orcas. According to the director of VNIRO, Kirill Kolonchin, each animal will be fitted with a satellite tag and monitored for three months following their release.
As if it couldn’t get any worse, Jean-Michel Cousteau’s team, initially consulted by Russian officials, is not included in the release process, nor are any independent observers. There is much reason not to trust VNIRO or those who carried out the captures and are now involved in the release process. Without independent observers, potential animal deaths may be hidden from the public. This is more tragic than it is relieving.
June 20, 2019:
After months of no action, the process of releasing the Whale Prison whales suddenly began today, several hours before the ‘direct line’ with President Vladimir Putin. Two orcas and six belugas were reportedly loaded onto trucks and transported to an unknown location. It is possible that they will initially be moved to the base for marine mammals in the village of Innokentievka in the Khabarovsk Territory, and then released into Sakhalin Bay.
According to the director of VNIRO, Kirill Kolonchin, there will be an accompanying team of 70 people during the transportation process (approx. 2 day journey), including scientists, veterinarians, and Whale Prison staff. However, it is of grave concern that Jean-Michel Cousteau’s team, who were originally consulted by the Russians, were not involved in this decision or the move. The whales will be fit with special satellite tags to keep track of them following their release. The Ministry of Environment originally claimed that the whales would be returned to the wild following a short rehabilitation process. However, Russian animal rights activists are claiming that no rehabilitation process occurred – a death sentence for the animals. In fact, the Whale Prison has allowed kindergarteners to tour the facility despite expert advise to keep human contact as limited as possible. With no mention of rehabilitation or the current health status of the whales, this situation is a bit precarious.
In other news, the Frunzensky Court of Vladivostok fined Oceanarium DV 56.4 million rubles ($896.846; €794,168) and Sochi Dolphinarium 37.6 million rubles ($597.840; €529.445) (two of the four companies responsible for the capture and confinement of the whales). Another meeting will be held on June 24th, regarding the fourth company, Afalina LLC. The head of Afalina LCC, Alexey Reshetov, announced that the company is close to bankruptcy. The company’s debt for the upkeep and feeding of the animals is nearly tens of millions of rubles. RIA News reported that maintenance costs about one million rubles a day. One can assume that this is why the Whale Prison is suddenly in a rush to release the whales.
June 10, 2019:
Cetacean captivity is officially banned in Canada! Bill S-203 was passed just this morning, prohibiting the capture, captivity, breeding, and importing/exporting of whales, dolphins, and porpoises.
Currently, only two facilities in Canada hold cetaceans:
• Vancouver Aquarium: 1 Pacific white-sided dolphin (Helen)
• Marineland Ontario: 1 killer whale (Kiska), 5 bottlenose dolphins, 50+ belugas
Both Kiska the orca and Helen the white-sided dolphin have been living in complete isolation away from any other members of their species—a truly sad existence for such socially complex animals. These animals were grandfathered into the system, but they will be the last.
However, Bill S-203 does make exceptions for removing a cetacean from the wild and keeping it in captivity for the purpose of rescue and rehabilitation. The passing of this bill has been a work in progress since 2015 and we thank all who were involved to make this possible! United States, are you next?
June 9, 2019:
A Russian court has fined White Whale (one of four companies responsible for the capture and confinement of the Whale Prison’s 87 belugas and 10 orcas) 28.1 million rubles ($433,000; £430,000) for violating fishing regulations in the capture of 3 orcas, with more imposed fines likely to follow for the illegal capture of the remaining animals. It’s fantastic to see Russian courts taking this matter seriously by ensuring justice is served!
In other news, the Russian Minister of Natural Resources & the Environment, Dmitry Kobylkin, has announced preparatory work is being carried out to include the Far Eastern Transient Orcas (the population the Whale Prison’s killer whales originate from) in the Russian Red Book of Endangered Species! The state document records rare and endangered species of animals, plants and fungi, as well as some local subspecies that exist within the territory of the Russian Federation and its continental shelf and marine economic zone. If successful, it will mean no more transient orcas can be captured for commercial purposes. Unfortunately, this state protection will not extend to Russia’s resident population of killer whales.
Speaking of the Whale Prison’s killer whales, the Deputy Minister of Agriculture & Head of the Federal Agency for Fisheries, Ilya Shestakov, has said the release of the 10 Orcas & 87 Belugas held captive in Srednyaya Bay could start within 10 days and continue until the end of summer. Freedom may soon be a reality for these whales! However, it’s believed the owners of the Whale Prison are trying to sabotage any future attempts to release the whales back into the wild by welcoming large groups of tourists and even school children into the facility, encouraging the whales to become accustomed to people. Hopefully Russian officials will put a stop to this.
May 21, 2019:
SeaWorld has released an official cause of death for Kayla, their 30-year-old killer whale, who died suddenly back in January. According to their statement, Kayla fell victim to “lung disease, which presented very quickly in her case”. Kayla had all the signs of classic pneumonia. I have a hunch SeaWorld are deliberately avoiding this term and opting for a vague alternative as Kayla would be the fourth killer whale to perish from variations of this disease in the last three years.
May 16, 2019:
Russian officials are going against expert advice and plan to release the Whale Prison’s 87 beluga whales and 10 killer whales into Srednyaya Bay, nearly 800 miles south of where they were initially captured last summer. Releasing the whales in Nikolai Bay, Sea of Okhotsk (their capture location) yields the highest prospects for long-term survival due to the significant likelihood of successful social reintegration and foraging.
The head of the Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Environment, Vladislav Rozhnov, argues bringing them back to their place of capture would be too costly and complicated, ignoring the Pacific Navy Fleet’s offer to assist with the transportation of the whales. Similarly, the Ministry of Environment has argued that transportation to Nikolai Bay could potentially injure the animals and cause them a great deal of stress — ironic considering those factors weren’t taken into account when they were captured.
If this plan goes ahead, such a release could be disastrous to the long-term survival of the whales.
Source: Free Russian Whales
May 12, 2019:
Malia, SeaWorld Orlando’s 12-year-old orca, once again has discolouration on her jaw. She also have a lump on her chest and abrasions on her pectoral fins. Check out my story highlights to see Malia’s condition.
May 9, 2019:
Another trailer for Long Gone Wild has been released! Picking up where Blackfish left off, Long Gone Wild is set to be released in mid-July and will focus on the plight of captive killer whales and their future.
As it reads on their website, “the film centers on five primary areas: (1) The Blackfish Effect (what it did and didn’t accomplish i.e., SeaWorld took a major hit to its bottom line, but the 20 orcas are still there); (2) The case against captivity (orcas are forced to live in barren concrete tanks); (3) Orcas as sentient animals (their great capacity to think, feel, communicate, and empathize); (4) The Whale Sanctuary Project and its model seaside sanctuary for retired orcas – providing a safe, permanent home in their natural habitat; and, (5) The ominous threat to orcas posed by Russia and China, triggered by the explosive growth of mega-aquariums in China.”
Let’s hope this new documentary generates the same magnitude of interest as Blackfish!
April 25, 2019:
A team of international marine mammal experts have assessed the condition of the 87 belugas and 10 killer whales at the “Whale Prison” and determined EVERY animal CAN be rehabilitated and released, with NO identified scientific reason as to why this may not be possible for individual animals. This is fantastic news, and the best possible outcome for these whales! Due to the minimal training they’ve received, the team has speculated the orcas may require just 1-2 months of rehabilitation prior to release into the wild.
Source: Free Russian Whales
April 8, 2019:
Fantastic news! The Governor of Primorsky Krai (Oleg Kozhemyako) has signed a joint agreement with the director of the Whale Sanctuary Project (Charles Vinick) and environmentalist Jean-Michel Cousteau to rehabilitate and release the orcas and belugas held at the Whale Prison in Srednyaya Bay, Russia. A memorandum of mutual understanding has also been signed between VNIRO and the Cousteau team, declaring the unification of efforts, cooperation, and coordination regarding the rehabilitation and release of the animals.
Source: Free Russian Whales
March 22, 2019:
Makaio and Trua have begun fighting following SeaWorld’s decision to separate the orcas into same-sex pods. The males have been without the ruling matriarch (Makaio’s mother, Katina) for around 6 months. Without a dominant female to keep them in check their behaviour is likely to remain unruly. Check out my story highlights to watch the fight.
March 21, 2019:
Some heartbreaking footage has emerged from SeaWorld Orlando. The collection of footage shows numerous members of the Orlando pod attempting to reunite themselves with one another after being separated into adjacent pools. The pod, consisting of three females and two males, were separated into same-sex groups around September last year and have not been reunited since. The six-month-long separation seems to being blamed on the breeding ban despite the fact SeaWorld did not separate the pod into same-sex groups for the first two years of the ban. Click here to watch the footage.
March 20, 2019:
A recent photo of Ran 2 has emerged showing the deep rake marks she has sustained above her pectoral fin at Kamogawa Sea World in Japan. Ran was separated from her mother, Stella, and sent to Kamogawa in December last year. The transfer meant she was reunited with her older sisters who she hadn’t seen since 2012. Unfortunately Ran seems to be having trouble fitting into the new hierarchy and has been brutalised by her siblings since she arrived. Check out my story highlights to view photos of her rake marks.
March 6, 2019:
Russian authorities are developing a plan of rehabilitation and re-adaption for the 97 whales at the “Whale Prison” in Srednyaya Bay as long as the decision poses “no risk to their lives.” Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Gordeyev announced that the whales will be moved to a “Center for the Maintenance of Large Marine Animals” on Russky Island although no such facility currently exists. It appears that the Russian government intends to keep all 97 whales in their cramped, tiny, and filthy pens until a rehabilitation centre is constructed. Meanwhile the head trainer at the Whale Prison, Andrei Nasonov, told the media that he will continue to train the whales for dolphinariums until a final decision is made.
Source: Free Russian Whales
March 4, 2019:
The health of the surviving killer whales held at the Whale Prison is being put in jeopardy as a result of their confinement. Veterinarians who participated in another inspection on March 1st found lesions, dark blotches, sores and ulcers on the orcas’ skin, all of which are signs of worsening fungal, bacterial, and viral infections. It was also noted that at least one killer whale has missing and fractured teeth. Dr. Tatyana Denisenko has said the unhealthy state of these whales is a direct consequence of their adverse living conditions which are characterised by poor sanitation, poor water quality, sources of stress and the presence of significant numbers of microorganisms of anthropogenic origin. Experts have warned that inadequate space and overcrowding will further the spread of infections and illnesses throughout the facility.
It’s also been confirmed that Kirill, a one-year-old male, is missing. While his captors have claimed he escaped, Kirill was last seen suffering from suspected frostbite and pneumonia and is more likely to have perished. Members of the public coalition have no doubt that Kirill died.
Source: Free Russian Whales
March 2, 2019:
After insisting Ula was in perfect health, Loro Parque have now published a video with Doctor Geraldine Lacave explaining she sustained an injury to her pectoral fin which then became infected, causing the disfigured appearance to her fin. While it’s good Loro Parque has finally provided an explanation it’s also rather funny how they’ve exposed themselves as lying about Ula’s health when questioned previously.
March 1, 2019:
Fantastic news! The remaining 97 whales held captive at the infamous Whale Prison in Srednyaya Bay, Primorsky Krai, Russia, are destined for release! Russian Minister of Natural Resources & Environment Dmitry Kobylkin said in a statement: “It’s absolutely clear to us that the orcas need to be released. No one has any objections today to releasing them, but the important thing is to do it correctly, so as not to lose a single individual”. Kobylkin’s statement follows social media posts from American actor, film producer, and environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio who urged his social media followers to sign a petition calling for the release of the whales.
Source: Free Russian Whales
February 12, 2019:
In May 2018 photos were posted of 16-year-old Kohana at Loro Parque showing some sort of discolouration on her saddle patch. Almost a year later and the discolouration has worsened. Loro Parque has yet to provide an explanation as to why this discolouration has developed. Check out my story highlights to view photos of her discolouration.
February 8, 2019:
Wonderful news! The owners of the “Whale Prison” in Srednyaya Bay have been charged with cruelty to animals by the Investigative Committee of Russia for the Khabarovsk Territory. News that these vile people are finally being brought to justice is very welcomed, as is news that “investigators will promptly take comprehensive measures to return all marine mammals to their natural habitat”. Unfortunately, a court still needs to grant a court order to release the whales before any of them can be relocated to rehabilitation centres.
Source: Free Russian Whales
January 30, 2019:
Today the Primorsky Environmental Prosecutor’s Office conducted another inspection of the “Whale Prison” in Srednyaya Bay, Russia. Prosecutors reportedly witnessed an orca floating belly-up in its holding pen and described it as either dead or near death. This orca is most likely 1-year-old Cyril (Kirill) who was described as being in poor condition; suffering from frostbite and pneumonia.
Results from the past inspection revealed that staphylococcus, candida, and other opportunistic microbes were found in the skin samples taken from all 11 orcas. The skin of the orcas was described as being “thickly seeded with bacteria” and covered in lesions possibly caused by fungal infections.
Fortunately, there’s some more positive news. A new lawsuit has been filed by Sakhalin Environmental Watch, Ocean Friends, and Boomerang Club with the Yuzhno-Sakhalin City Court to release the 98 cetaceans currently being held at the “Whale Prison.” The environmentalists and activists in Russia feel that they can no longer wait for local authorities to take action so they’ve decided to go to court on their own.
UPDATE: It has since been suspected that Cyril died the day after the inspection on January 31st.
January 28, 2019:
Kayla, a 30-year-old killer whale, passed away at SeaWorld Orlando this morning. Kayla reportedly showed signs of discomfort on Saturday before steeply declining on Sunday.
She then suddenly passed away early Monday morning despite receiving treatment. Kayla’s cause of death is unknown and will remain so until a post-mortem examination is completed. She’s the fourth killer whale to die at SeaWorld in just over two years.
Source: Orlando Sentinel
January 27, 2019:
Good news! The Presidential Council for Civil Society & Human Rights has ruled that the 11 orcas and 89 belugas being held captive at the “Whale Prison” in Srednyaya Bay do not belong to the owners of the facility, but are the property of the Russian Federation and cannot be sold. This ensures these vile captors will not be able to profit off the suffering of these animals.
Source: Free Russian Whales
January 26, 2019:
Ula, Loro Parque’s four-month-old killer whale calf, has fallen ill. Photos of Ula show her left pectoral fin covered in prolific skin lesions and the skin near her right pectoral fin appears ulcerated. Ula has also been photographed with a bandage on her fin pectoral fin and possible track marks are visible on the ventral surface of her tail flukes, suggesting frequent blood draws and/or the administration of antibiotics. It’s also been noted that Ula’s melon is melon is abnormal in shape and possibly congenitally disfigured. While the melon of a healthy orca calf is typically rounded, Ula’s appears to be significantly flatter and misshapen. However, this may be a consequence of bottle-feeding as Ula is being fed formulated milk rather than her mother’s nutrient-rich, fattening milk.
Source: Voice of the Orcas (click to view photos)
January 25, 2019:
Captors at the “Whale Prison” are now claiming that they have released one of the orcas due to aggressive behaviour, but it’s more likely this is a cover up for an orca’s death. To clarify, 12 orcas were captured during the summer. This individual that they supposedly release likely died from capture myopathy.
Source: Quad_Finn (Twitter)
January 24, 2019:
An inspection of the “Whale Prison” has revealed its surrounding waters have iced over, surrounding the facility with thick, dense ice. The hostile conditions pose a huge threat to the residing animals who are at risk of succumbing to hypothermia. Malnourished and unable to maintain a healthy blubber supply, the killer whales and belugas whales are unable to combat the frigid temperatures leaving them vulnerable to the cold.
The inspection also revealed “a complete absence of sanitation and activities aimed at preventing pathogens from infecting the animals” causing many to become sick. Zina, Gaika, Tikhon, Leha, Zoya and Alexandra have all developed an undisclosed skin condition with unusual blotches covering their backs.
Source: Free Russian Whales
January 16, 2019:
A new documentary (Release the killer whales! by DW Documentary) has been released starring Mercedes Hernandez, mother of Alexis Martinez who was attacked and killed by Keto, a killer whale at Loro Parque. Hernandez fights for Keto’s freedom and wishes for the release of all of Loro Parque’s killer whales into their natural habitat.
January 13, 2019:
Morgan’s calf has finally received a name! The almost four-month-old calf has been named Ula (oo-la), meaning “jewel of the sea” in Celtic. Photos released by Loro Parque show Morgan and Ula have been reunited after 15 weeks of separation.