Russia Orders All Orcas And Belugas Kept In 'Whale Jail' To Be Released With Help Of Leonardo DiCaprio
Russian officials have ordered the release of nearly 100 whales that are currently being held captive, with the help of a petition which was backed by Hollywood film stars such as Leonardo DiCaprio.
Environmental activists spent months calling for the release of the animals which were being kept in cramped conditions, in cages known as 'whale jails', near the Pacific port city of Nakhodka in Russia's far east, according to the Independent.
It is believed that charges have been brought against four companies thought to have captured the whales illegally. The MailOnline reports that the firms have previously been fined for unlawful seizure and also have a history of selling the animals to amusement parks overseas.
Russia's federal security service (FSB), which announced the charges, seemed to be taking its cues from Russian president Vladimir Putin.
According to news agency TASS, the FSB has said: "Expertise showed that the animals were kept in unsatisfactory conditions, and must be released into their natural habitat."
The law in Russia does allow whales to be captured but only for scientific purposes, while marine mammal experts claim that the animals are being sold to Chinese aquariums.
According to the Change.org petition, there are currently 11 orcas, five baby walruses and 90 baby belugas being held in the cramped enclosures. Their release has been ordered but border officials have not confirmed when this will happen.
Russia's ecology minister Dmitry Kobylkin told TASS that the government was working hard to try and free the whales, saying: "We are doing everything we can. No one objects to releasing the orcas, but the most important thing is to release them properly."
The petition, which has currently been signed by over 912,300 people, has been backed by international film stars such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Pamela Anderson.
One person commented on the petition: "This is cruel and inhumane and totally unacceptable by any standard. It has been demonstrated time and again that cetaceans are intelligent and feeling creatures. By any standard of human compassion, this totally unacceptable."
In an open letter posted on to her website, Pamela Anderson wrote: "News about the 'whale jail' near Nakhodka, the icy conditions, and the suffering of the orca and beluga whales is causing international concern."
Featured Image Credit: Change.org/PA