Animals

Russia Closes Notorious ‘Whale Jail’

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Russia has dismantled a notorious facility dubbed the “whale prison” that kept dozens of mammals in cramped conditions, causing international outrage.

Nearly 100 whales were kept at a secret facility in Sredenaya Bay near the far eastern town of Nakhodka in 2018, before being released after an intense crackdown by animal rights and environmental groups in 2019.

Animals were captured to perform in aquariums.

The environmental prosecutor’s office in the Amur Basin – in Russia’s far east – said on Thursday that the prison had been completely dismantled.

“In order to prevent illegal fishing of marine animals, the floating structures have been dismantled,” she said in a statement.

The prison hull was transferred to the shipyard “in the event that the possibility of using it for its intended purpose is excluded.”

Environmental groups welcomed the move.

“It should have been done a long time ago,” said Dmitriy Lisitsyn, head of the Sakhalin Watch NGO that spearheaded the campaign against the prison.

“We have gone to great lengths to close it and free the whales,” he said.

All of the whales kept in the prison, which includes 77 beluga whales, are now in the wild.

Lisitsyn said the process of liberating them was “extremely difficult” because most of them were children who had not adapted to life in the wild.

They underwent a rehabilitation program before being released into the Sea of ​​Okhotsk that separates the eastern Russian peninsula from Japan.

The prison is the only known facility of this kind in Russia, Lisitsyn said, but the country has other places that house large marine animals in “terrible” conditions for performances in aquariums.

Many of the whales kept at the facility in the Gulf of Serdia were to be sent to aquariums in China.

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