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Another orca family has been shattered and traumatized
for the orca display industry!

October 10, 2003 - The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) reports that a young orca, or killer whale, has died during a capture attempt - we need your help to prevent further captures and trade. Please see the action alert below. October 29- According to the FEROP website it seems that the russian orca caught last 26th september for the Utrish aquarium died 5 days ago.
We can add her to the 131 (at least) orcas who died in captivity since 1961.

(Sample letter below)


Sources have confirmed that a juvenile and a young calf were amongst a group of orcas targeted in a capture attempt in Russia last month. The juvenile became entangled in the net, suffocated and died. The remaining animals, except for one female, were subsequently released.

The group of orcas was captured on September 26th in the remote Russian Far East, where the WDCS-funded Far East Russia Orca Project, has been researching these animals since 1999. The female orca was taken to a floating pen in the area and later transferred by charter plane to Anapa on the Black Sea where the Utrish Aquarium has one of its facilities.
UPDATE: The female orca shipped to Utrish Aquarium was reported to have died October 24. See notice at top of this page.

This is the first time in six years that an orca has been captured alive for the captivity industry. We are very worried about the welfare and survival of the female concerned and the members of her family group that were left behind.

It is possible that this capture will set a precedent for further captures in Russian waters, leading to a revival of international trade in these animals by the captivity industry.


Please send a polite letter to the Russian Minister of Natural Resources, Vitaly G. Artyukhov at:

For more information and an example letter please go the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society website.

October 9 News Release by OrcaLab

For immediate release
October 9, 2003

First Russian orca captured

Canada`s OrcaLab today reported that the first capture of a Russian orca whale has taken place. The historic event occurred near the Kamchatka coast in Russia`s far eastern waters on September 26th. The captive is a 430cm long female orca weighing about 1100kg. On October 6th she was flown to the Utrish Marine Station of the Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution of the Russian Academy of Sciences on the coast of the Black Sea where she will be used "in various scientific investigations" according to Dr. Lev Mukhametov of the Utrish Dolphinarium in a letter to OrcaLab`s director Dr. Paul Spong.

A long time opponent of orca captures, Spong obtained the information today in response to a faxed inquiry to the Utrish Dolphinarium. Noting "the ugly history of orca captures in the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere" Spong expressed empathy for the captive and other family members who were "certainly subjected to terrifying circumstances". Unverified reports have it that one family member was entangled in nets during the capture and drowned. Spong is particularly concerned about the long term consequences of the capture, noting that "it opens the door to a whole new era of orca roundups that could fill the tanks of the captive industry for decades". Mark Berman of Earth Island Institute and the Free Willy Keiko Foundation commented "this tragic event is certain to provoke outrage from around the world and I simply can't understand why Russia would invite it."

The Russian government has issued permits for the capture of 10 orcas in the Kamchatka region during 2003.

For further information:

Dr. Paul Spong, OrcaLab:
Tel/fax: +1 (250) 974-8068
Mark Berman, Earth Island Institute, Free Willy Keiko Foundation:
Tel: +1 (415) 788-3666; Fax: +1-415-788-7324
Dr. Lev Mukhametov, Utrish Dolphinarium:
Tel/fax: +7 (095)958-1260
Dr. Dmitry S. Pavlov, Director A.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution
Tel: +7 (095) 952-2088
Fax: +7 (095) 954-5534

For television media:

B roll of Russian orcas available via:
Michael Harris, Outpost Media Inc.
Tel: +1 (206) 467-6722
Fax: +1 (206) 447-9623

Sample letter to Russian authorities

October 13, 2003

Dr. Lev Mukhametov, Utrish Dolphinarium Ltd.
Tel/fax +7 (095) 958-1260

Dr. Dmitry S. Pavlov, Director A.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution
Tel +7 (095) 952-2088
Fax +7 (095) 954-5534

Vitaly G. Artyukhov,
Minister of Natural Resources of the Russian Federation,
Fax +7 (095) 254 66 10; +7 (095) 254 43 10

Vladimir Putin
President of the Russian Federation,

Dear Sirs,

I write to you on a matter of extreme importance to supporters of freedom and healthy habitats for whales and dolphins of the world. Orca Network represents thousands of members and subscribers throughout the world who are adamantly opposed to the capture and exploitation of any orcas, anywhere in the world. We provide information to media and public officials on topics related to the welfare of orca populations.

Recently we were informed that a capture of members of an orca family residing near Kamchatka took place on September 26th. The 430cm long orca, perhaps just 6 years old, was shipped on October 5th to the Utrish Marine station. This “dolphinarium” operates under the auspices of the Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution.

In addition to the obvious severe trauma of the capture in which at least one other family member was killed, and the forced confinement unto death that is intended for this orca, this capture demonstrates ignorance of recent scientific findings.

First, I refer you to the journal Nature 425, 473 - 474 (02 October 2003), Animal Welfare: Captivity effects on wide-ranging carnivores, which states clearly that: “Animals that roam over a large territory in the wild do not take kindly to being confined.” The article concludes “that a particular lifestyle in the wild confers vulnerability to welfare problems in captivity...Among the carnivores, naturally wide-ranging species show the most evidence of stress and/or psychological dysfunction in captivity.” Any student of cetology knows that orcas typically roam up to 100 miles each 24 hours. To confine such an extremely wide-ranging carnivore in a tank just a few body lengths from wall to wall is a travesty and a tragedy. You do so knowingly and that is cause for shame.

Perhaps even more alarming for witnesses to this callous capture, however, is the knowledge based on recent scientific awareness that orcas demonstrate cultural capabilities unparalleled except in human societies. Please read: Rendell, L. & Whitehead, H. (2001) Culture in whales and dolphins. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 24 (2). We now know that when an orca family member is forcibly removed the trauma of separation persists for life, not only for the captive, but for the remaining family. Even after decades in captivity orcas typically call out in the unique vocalizations used only by their immediate family. The world now understands that capture of an orca from its family is similar to enslavement for the entertainment industry. Please return this orca to its family and habitat.


Howard Garrett
Board President

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