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‘Solitary confinement’: Two killer whales kept in cramped tanks in Moscow park

Two orca killer whales have been kept for 10 months in central Moscow in conditions animal rights activists claim render them deaf and mad.

The 7-year-old, 2.5-ton female Narnia and the 5-ton, 5-year-old male killer whale, have been kept in covered tanks at the VDNKh exhibition center for almost a year. They are destined for a new oceanarium slated for spring 2014, but delayed to 2015.

The whales’ tanks were described as “solitary confinement cells” by Irina Novozhilova Head of the Vita animal rights group who exposed the whales’ plight after an official info request to Moscow police and published footage showing water underneath the covered tanks.

Screenshot from Zvezda TV

The whales’ cries have been heard in the vicinity of the tanks for several months.

Moscow city police refused to launch a trial citing lenient laws on animal abuse which punish intentionally killing or seriously maiming, but not poor conditions.

The police report published by Vita group stated that animals are kept in ‘carefully maintained conditions, with filtered water and the diet of 12 species of fish and human access only by vets and trainers’.

Screenshot from Zvezda TV

The Vita group however, sought testimony from Russia’s animal rights elite.

“It’s the worst possible thing to think of… It’s like putting a human into a barrel with water and keeping him or her there for a long time. <…> It’s a crime, I think, to keep them in such conditions, it’s just animal abuse,” Aleksandr Burdin, director of the “FEROP – Russian orca” organization said in the Vita group’s statement.

Renowned biologist and director of the Russian branch of Antarctic Ocean Alliance Grigory Tsidulko stressed the fact that it is very difficult to create proper conditions for killer whales in captivity.

Screenshot from Zvezda TV

“Killer whales swim very long distances daily – up to 150 kilometers. <…> basically, you take a small child out of a family, transfer him or her God knows where and keep the child in a small cage,” he said.

As to their future lives in an oceanarium, applause and concrete pools resonate sound, almost deafening whales, Tsidulko added.

In a Monday statement VDNKh managment, appointed by Moscow's mayor in April, deny participating in the whale transfer.

Last month, Moscow Deputy Mayor Marat Khusnullin said that the killer whales were being kept in the Far East, after being seized from poachers, as quoted by Interfax news agency. Yet records showed the animals were flown in last December.