Contrary to previous reports, two orcas captured in the Sea of Okhotsk off the coast of Russia will no longer be on display in Sochi during the Olympics, but will stay in Moscow, Erich Hoyt of Whale and Dolphin Conservation confirmed to BuzzFeed via email.
According to Hoyt, who is a research fellow with WDC and the author of Orca: The Whale Called Killer, the WDC learned of the whales' transport to Sochi after the group "intercepted" two tweets from a spokeswoman at Vnukovo International Airport (southwest of Moscow) at the end of November. One said that the animals were set to arrive at the airport, while a second about six hours later said that their shipment was postponed. A week later, Hoyt said, "two orcas (maybe the same ones intended for Sochi, maybe not) were shipped to Moscow to an aquarium still in the process of being built." Now it seems the animals will remain there indefinitely, according to shipping records from the beginning of December.
Hoyt originally posted that the whales were no longer going to Sochi, with confirmation from the president of the Sochi Olympic Committee, on his Facebook page on Feb. 5. International Olympic Committee Director of Communications Mark Adams told BuzzFeed back in December that neither the IOC nor the Sochi Organizing Committee had any knowledge of orcas arriving in Sochi or being used during the opening ceremonies on Feb. 7.
The orcas, a female named Narnia and a young male, were part of a group of eight whales that were captured in August 2012 and September 2013. The Sochi Dolphinarium had some of the permits to capture the animals, and "it was logical to think they would display some of them and sell others," Hoyt said.
The dolphinarium seemed to have plans to profit off the whales' display alongside the dolphins and belugas it already keeps captive at a time when there would be many tourists in the area, but Hoyt said it's not clear exactly what has happened that has prevented their arrival. "Maybe the orcas weren't trained and ready; maybe there were logistic[al] problems; we don't know ... Maybe there was concern about possible activist action at that point, but that's speculation," Hoyt said.
The to-be-built Moscow oceanarium will be one of the few places in the world, along with the United States' three SeaWorld parks, where orcas are kept in captivity.