Saturday 01 February 2014

One spectacle too many at the 2014 Winter Olympics?

In less than one week, the 2014 Olympic Winter Games will commence.

The Russian city of Sochi, on the eastern shore of the Black Sea, will host more than 2,500 athletes; 25,000 volunteers; 40,000 police and special services security officers; and an expected 213,000 spectators.

Alarmingly, there are reports that two additional “guests” are being flown in for the spectacle.

Sochi’s dolphinarium, “Aquatoria”, has for some years included captive performing dolphins, belugas, seals, sea lions and walruses. Now, on the eve of the Games, there is growing speculation that Aquatoria is awaiting the arrival of two orcas - commonly called killer whales - captured from the Okhotsk Sea nearly 7,500 kilometres to the east.

If the stories are true, there is no evidence or suggestion that the orcas have a direct connection with the International Olympic Committee or any of the official Olympic events or activities. However, the timing and the expense of bringing the animals to Sochi suggests an attempt by local politicians and business to cash in on the large numbers of visitors that are about to descend on the region.

At the time of this news item being posted the arrival of the orcas has not been confirmed. What is known for certain is that at least seven orcas were captured in the Okhotsk Sea in September and October last year. While some are destined for dolphinaria in China, it is believed that two are the subject of the Sochi speculation.

Orcas in the wild - like the one pictured - live in tightly bonded family groups, interacting in complex social “clans” and communities. It is impossible to replicate even a fraction of their natural way of life in captivity.

It is hoped that an event that seeks to emphasise positive human qualities does not become tarnished by another example of our disregard for the welfare of the other creatures that share our planet.


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