The Russian government has invited the Whale Sanctuary Project to visit the illegal “whale jail” on Russia’s Far East coast, where 10 orcas and 87 beluga whales are confined in appalling conditions.
A team of experts, brought together by the Whale Sanctuary Project and led by explorer and environmentalist Jean-Michel Cousteau, is on its way to Russia, where 10 orcas and 87 beluga whales have spent the bitterly cold winter languishing in small, icy sea pens, commonly referred to by Russian media as a “whale jail.”
Four of the original whales are no longer in the pens and are assumed to have died; others have serious skin wounds and appear to be suffering from the cold and loss of energy.
The whales were captured illegally last year by a consortium of four companies whose apparent intention was to sell them to marine entertainment parks in China.
After President Vladimir Putin tasked the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment with determining the future of the whales, the Ministry invited Cousteau to bring a team to Russia to assess the condition of the whales and to advise the government on a rehabilitation program with a view to their being returned to ocean waters.
The Whale Sanctuary Project has set up a special fund to meet the costs of this mission and we still need to raise a further $20,000. Your donations, large or small, are deeply appreciated.
The Team: Along with Jean-Michel Cousteau, the Whale Sanctuary Project team is led by Executive Director Charles Vinick, who managed the reintroduction of the orca Keiko to his home waters off the coast of Iceland in the 1990s. The team they have assembled includes:
- Jean-Michel Cousteau, Special Advisor to the Whale Sanctuary Project (WSP) and Founder of Ocean Futures Society;
- Charles Vinick, Executive Director of the Whale Sanctuary Project;
- Jeffrey Foster, WSP marine mammal expert and researcher, rehabilitation and release specialist;
- Ingrid Visser, PhD, marine mammal scientist and orca research, rehabilitation and release specialist, and WSP Advisory Group member;
- Katy Foster, WSP marine mammal researcher, rehabilitation and release coordination and documentation;
- Grigoriy Arkad’evich Tsidulko, marine mammal research specialist, expert of IUCN cetacean working group; former beluga whale trainer;
- Tatyana Evgenyevna Denisenko, Veterinarian, Assistant Professor in the Department of Microbiology of the K.I. Skryabin Moscow State Academy of Veterinary Medicine and Biotechnology;
- Tatiana Beley, Director and co-founder of “Delfa Center” and specialist in dolphin rescue and release;
- Harry Rabin: Science documentarian;
- David Gordon: Advisor and translator;
- Russ Abdrakhmanov: Translator.
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