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All orcas & belugas from Russian ‘whale prison’ will return to the wild – governor

All orcas & belugas from Russian ‘whale prison’ will return to the wild – governor
Russian scientists together with a team led by French ocean explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau will develop individual plans for the release of orcas and belugas held in “whale jail” in Russia’s Far East, the region’s governor said.

“An official decision has been taken to return all the animals into the wild,” Oleg Kozhemyako, the governor of Primorsky Region told media on Monday.

Kozhemyako also promised to set up a special rehabilitation facility where the conditions would be as close as possible to their natural environment. Individual plans for adaptation and release will be finished by the beginning of May, the scientists confirmed.

Earlier Jean-Michel Cousteau, who is the son of ocean explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau, was invited by the Russian authorities to join the efforts to return captive orcas and belugas to the natural environment.

Last week, Cousteau and his team arrived in the Primorsky Region to start work at the Center for the Adaptation of Marine Mammals, where the creatures are currently held.

So far, 87 belugas, 11 orcas, and five baby walruses are awaiting rescue from tiny enclosures on Russia’s Pacific coast. The whales were supposedly captured for educational purposes, but animal rights activists suspect they were intended for sale to aquariums and amusement parks in China.

The authorities started an investigation into the conditions of the “whale prison”. But as Russian law allows the capture of whales for cultural and educational purposes, but does not explicitly prohibit them from being sold, the case kept stalling and the animals were left in limbo. Later President Vladimir Putin ordered immediate action to resolve the issue by March 1.

READ MORE: ‘Release is best solution’: Explorer Cousteau wants to save orcas & belugas from ‘whale jail’

Many environmental organizations and high-profile celebrities, among them Pamela Anderson and Leonardo DiCaprio, have campaigned for the release of the orcas and belugas.

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