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25 Aug, 2010 11:33

Putin shoots whale with crossbow for sake of science

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has taken part in a wildlife experiment, helping biologists get skin samples from an endangered gray whale.

Putin, who is currently visiting the Far Eastern region of Kamchatka, joined the team of marine biologists at the Kronotsky Nature Preserve, where the nearly-extinct mammals have recently been observed.

Despite the poor weather conditions and the rough water, a motor boat carrying the wetsuit-clad team went to sea in search of gray whales. After a group of whales was detected, the Prime Minister shot a sample-taking dart at one of the animals with a crossbow.

“We tried to work with three or four whales, but we only got one,” Putin told the press after setting foot on the shore. “I had a rush: three times I missed, but the fourth time I hit it.”

The skin sample taken from the whale will allow researchers to identify where the animal came from and which population it belongs to.

Putin is well-known for his interest in wildlife and animals in general. Two years ago, while visiting the Ussuri national park in the Far East, he helped biologists sedate an Amur tiger and put a GPS collar on its neck. The current location of the animal can now be monitored via a special page on the Prime Minister’s official website. The site also offers information on the white whale Putin marked with a GPS transmitter in 2009, and the white bear he put a collar on in 2010.

In 2009, after the encounter with the tiger, which received a lot of attention in the media, for his birthday in October Putin received a tiger cub, which he named Mashenka and handed over to a zoo.

The Prime Minister also has several rather conventional pets, including Koni the black labrador and a mini-horse called Vadik.