Wild Orcas To Be Imported For Sochi Olympics Amid Fierce Backlash

<p>Wikimedia Commons</p>

With the Sochi Winter Games swiftly approaching, environmentalists and scientists are focused on more than just the athletics. Many are demanding that the Olympic organizers condemn the potential importation of two orcas to an aquarium in Sochi as entertainment for tourists during the games.

Activists say that the whales, which were caught alongside five others in the sea of Okhotsk northeast of Japan, should be released back into the wild.

"When they're captured, their families are just ripped apart," whale researcher Paul Spong told CBC. "And when they're put into captivity, they're really subject to sensory deprivation for years and years and years -- it's hugely damaging to them."

But the details still aren't clear -- conservationists are still unsure exactly how or when the move to Sochi could happen, according to PRI.

There were numerous reports that the Russian company had captured the orcas in the Sea of Okhotsk and that at least some of the whales were in holding pens near Vladivostok. The Russian Fisheries Agency didn't respond to questions regarding quotas for orca captured in Russian waters.

But activists have begun a campaign against importing them to Sochi, starting with an online petition on the site Care2 already has over 111,000 signatures.

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.

We will be following this story and will update if any other news comes to light.

This isn't the only animal issue for Sochi -- last week, word broke that the city was killing stray dogs using traps and poison. Reports have flooded in of large dogs being found dead on the side of the road by visitors. Animal rights groups have demanded that a shelter be built, and the government has said they are considering the creation of a private shelter for the animals.