n Russia, a battle to free nearly 100 captured whales

I[AFP] Maria ANTONOVA ,AFP•February 22, 2019

Captured marine mammals seen from above in enclosures at a holding facility in Srednyaya Bay in the Far Eastern town of Nakhodka (AFP Photo/Sergei PETROV)
Nearly 100 killer and beluga whales were captured last summer for sale to oceanariums, especially the Chinese market (AFP Photo/Sergei PETROV)
Greenpeace activists and supporters rally in Moscow, demanding the release of the orcas and beluga whales back into the wild (AFP Photo/Alexander NEMENOV)

1 / 4
Captured marine mammals seen from above in enclosures at a holding facility in Srednyaya Bay in the Far Eastern town of Nakhodka Captured marine mammals seen from above in enclosures at a holding facility in Srednyaya Bay in the Far Eastern town of Nakhodka (AFP Photo/Sergei PETROV)

Dozens of orcas and beluga whales captured for sale to oceanariums have brought Russia’s murky trade into the spotlight, but efforts to free them have been blocked by government infighting.

Russia is the only country where orcas, or killer whales, and belugas can be caught in the ocean for the purpose of “education”. The legal loophole has been used to export them to satisfy demand in China’s growing network of ocean theme parks.

Photos of a total of 11 orcas and 87 belugas crammed into small enclosures at a secure facility in the Far Eastern town of Nakhodka sparked a global outcry, and the Kremlin on Friday stepped in, saying the fate of “suffering” animals must be resolved.

“There have never been that many animals caught in one season and kept in one facility before anywhere in the world,” said Dmitry Lisitsyn, head of the Sakhalin Environmental Watch group, who has emerged as a point person in the campaign to release the whales captured last summer back into the wild.

Russian investigators launched two probes into poaching and animal cruelty, while Russia’s environmental watchdog said it has refused to issue permits to export the whales.

But the investigations and any potential court case could drag on for months.

The Russian government is split between the environment ministry that says the animals must be released, and the fisheries agency that defends their capture as part of a legitimate industry.

President Vladimir Putin has ordered his ministers to “decide on the fate of the whales” by March 1, a decree said Friday.

“The animals are suffering” and may die, said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, adding that they “are being kept in conditions that are inadequate for such young animals of these species.”

– 200 orcas left –

The captured killer whales belong to the rarer seal-eating population of the species, which does not interbreed or interact with fish-eating orcas.

The environment ministry has tried to list the seal-eating type as endangered, ministry representative Olga Krever said.

“This population has only 200 adult animals” in Russian waters, she said.

But the agriculture ministry, which controls the fisheries agency and oversees non-protected sea species, views orcas as competitors for Russia’s fish stocks and doesn’t believe they are under threat, Krever said, calling the dispute a “big problem.”

Marine mammal researchers say there are good chances of a successful release, but the fisheries agency told AFP that it “carries high risks of their mass death”.

“Neither orcas nor belugas are endangered,” and are simply a resource that can be used according to existing legislation, agency representative Sergei Golovinov said.

– ‘Stars of the shows’ –

Both the United States and Canada stopped catching wild orcas in the 1970s due to negative publicity, so China relies on Russian exports.

There are 74 operational ocean theme parks in mainland China featuring whales and dolphins, according to the China Cetacean Alliance, which monitors the industry. More are under construction.

“Orcas are like the cherry on the cake” for new Chinese venues, said Greenpeace Russia campaigner Oganes Targulyan at a recent protest against whale capture.

“They are the stars of the shows.”

All 17 killer whales that Russia has exported since 2013 — which officials value at up to $6 million each — have gone to China, according to CITES wildlife trade figures.

Though the animals in Nakhodka are unlikely to get green-lighted for export, their fate is unclear.

The urgency of the situation is clear however: one killer whale went missing from the Nakhodka facility this week, Sakhalin Watch said Thursday, suspecting it may be dead.

In the West, there is widespread opposition to keeping the highly intelligent marine mammals in parks like the US chain Sea World, but in Russia public opinion is not so certain.

Companies that caught the animals are not giving up. At the weekend, they launched a new Instagram account, praising the Nakhodka facility and defending the oceanarium industry.

– ‘Lobbyist muscle’ –

On Saturday, dozens of pro-industry supporters disrupted a rally to free the whales. They showed up with signs reading “Each orca is 10 jobs” for the crews hired to catch them, and only left when police arrived on the scene.

“We see that the capturing companies are putting up a fight,” Lisitsyn said. “They are using their lobbyist muscle.”

Researchers meanwhile are already starting to organise to prepare for a potential release of the animals.

“There has never been so many animals released in the past,” said Dmitry Glazov, a beluga whale researcher at the Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution in Moscow.

He said a project of that scale would certainly require international expertise and funding. The whales, which have been fed dead fish, would need to go through an adaptation period to make sure they can rely on their natural food sources.

“For science, releasing this many animals would be invaluable,” he said.
“But there needs to be a decision first.”

https://www.yahoo.com/news/russia-battle-free-nearly-100-captured-whales-033412177.html

HUNTER KILLS SON IN HORRIBLE HUNTING ACCIDENT

Moose

Photo credit: Dreamstime

Here’s another reminder to always confirm what you’re shooting at before making the shot. A Russian hunter recently shot and killed his son after thinking he was a moose. According to the Moscow Times, an investigator said, “The hunter fired a rifle into a moving object in poor visibility, mistakenly believing that it was a moose.”

Instead, it was the hunter’s 18-year-old son, who died from his father’s misguided shot. The incident took place in Khanty-Mansiysk in northern Russia, about 2,000 miles east of Moscow.

“Having come closer, the hunter saw that he mortally wounded his 18-year-old son,” the investigator told the Moscow Times.

Reports have not released the names of the father or his son. The father is charged with “death caused by negligence,” which means he could face possible jail time, the Moscow Times reports.

https://www.gohunt.com/read/news/hunter-kills-son-in-horrible-hunting-accident

The Man Who Befriended Bears

(RYAN PERUNIAK)

Charlie Russell loved to fly, and he seldom phoned first those times when he would fly his Kolb ultralight airplane north from Hawk’s Nest ranch on the boundary of Waterton Lakes National Park, to our “ranchette” near the Crowsnest Pass. We would hear the thrum of the plane’s Rotax motor bouncing off the nearby Livingstone Range, then the tiny white two-seater, looking like a giant lawn dart, grew suddenly loud as he buzzed the place, wagging his wings close enough for us to see his snaggle-toothed grin. Our horses would tear down the field, eyes rolling from his low approach. He would circle over the road, then sail in under the Fortis power line, set the plane down on the gravel and taxi up to our cattle guard. Then he’d get out, grab a length of rope from the cockpit and tie off the plane to a fence post with a cowboy slip knot so the wind couldn’t blow it over. He had long promised to take my wife Myrna for a ride, and one day she called him on it. “Well, I guess today’s the day then,” he grinned. I didn’t like the look of the clouds over Centre Peak, but Myrna’s face said, “You don’t get a vote.”

“Just tell me that you don’t have a halibut jig tied to the tail wheel this time.”

“What’s he talking about?” Myrna demanded.

“Ha!” laughed Charlie. “He’ll tell you later.”

Charlie Russell died on May 7 in Calgary due to complications following a five-hour surgical procedure. Charlie used up his nine lives long ago, but his death at 76 was still shocking to those who knew him well. Few people have lived as intensely as this man, or as dangerously. He has flown in some of the worst conditions on earth and walked or crawled (with a broken back one time) away from both a hang-glider and an ultra-light crash, and over time he prevailed in a number of forced landings. He is, he was, internationally famous for the ground-breaking work he and the artist Maureen Enns did at Kambalnoye Lake, Kamchatka, in Russia, living in close proximity with brown bears and raising orphaned cubs which not only survived the wilds but eventually reproduced. A mentor to many naturalists, his experiments in “exploring the possibilities of trust” challenged the prevalent orthodoxy of his day, which held that bears that have no fear of humans are always extremely dangerous, and that all bears are unpredictable and therefore always a threat to humans. Yet he was wise enough to know that what he learned working with those wild bears in BC and Kamchatka, in true wilderness settings, should not be applied by the layman to human-influenced bears in our southern national parks.

Charlie was raised in bear country and learned all the skills of mountain bush craft and horsemanship guiding hunters on his father’s pack-train. In 1960 Charlie and his brother Dick roughed it through Canada and Alaska to help Andy Russell make his groundbreaking film Grizzly Country. After studying photography in New York, and a stint living in New Zealand with his first wife, Margaret, Charlie took up ranching at Hawk’s Nest, his family home. But his heart wasn’t in it and he spent a lot of his time working on conservation projects, such as the Waterton Biosphere Reserve initiative. Many bears were dying at the hands of ranchers and hunters in southwest Alberta at that time. This bear of a man, Russell, was angered by the carnage, for as he often growled, “Anything that hurts the bears, hurts me.” He became the first Canadian rancher to deliberately move cattle carcasses to safe places on his ranch near the park boundary, so that bears could feed on them without being shot.

Eventually Charlie gave up on ranching, and in the 1990s he took a job guiding tourists on grizzly-bear-watching tours in the Khutzeymateen inlet of BC. Charlie’s superb talent at reading ursine body language, and his sensitive, ego-free approach to all wildlife, allowed for close encounters of the ursine kind. Myrna and I are two of the many people that have sat with him on a big driftwood log at the water’s edge as a female grizzly grazed on sedges at our feet, unafraid of us, and offering no threat to us. As a former park warden, I helped to capture many bears, but I never felt as reassured around them as I felt in Charlie’s company. His skill as a bear guide led to an offer in 1991 to work with filmmakers Jeff and Sue Turner of Princeton, BC. With Charlie’s help, they shot a famous BBC documentary on the Kermode “Spirit Bears” of Princess Royal Island. Charlie worked on documentaries, wrote books, collaborated with conservation groups and biologists and helped shape public opinion to push for a grizzly sanctuary in both the Khutzeymateen and Kamchatka and a protected area for Kermode bears on Princess Royal Island.

In 1993 the Turners’ plan called for Charlie to provide and pilot an ultralight plane, capable of water landings, to be used as an aerial camera platform. Charlie and his late son Anthony Russell began building the plane at Hawk’s Nest—all over Hawk’s Nest, since he didn’t have a big enough barn for the project. Every building on the place had a piece of the plane in it and Charlie was getting increasingly frantic to get the thing riveted together as a deadline for departure for the island loomed. On a snowy March day, I joined filmmaker Jeff Turner to help Charlie with some last-minute detailing. We worked all day; darkness found us riveting the cockpit canopy carefully onto thin steel tubing. I suddenly stubbed my toe on a snow-covered object. “Shit! What’s this thing, Charlie?” Charlie peered down at it for a second, distracted, bent down and swept the snow off it with his boot. “It’s just the in-flight computer.”

“Oh, is that all it is? Wow. I thought I had stepped on something important.”

I worried about that computer later that spring, when Canadian Geographiccommissioned me to write a feature article on the Kermode bears with Charlie to supply the photos. As a result I spent about four weeks that summer and fall on the island, hosted by the Turners at their camp. One did not just swan around taking notes with the hard-working Turners, and I soon found myself humping camera gear through the rainforest with Charlie. The white bears were living up to their reputation as ghosts of the rainforest, staying out of sight and waiting for the coho to run. Charlie had already befriended both black and white bears he encountered in the bush, and could identify individuals by size, shape and colouration. One day, we were sitting on a log taking a break while a black bear fished in a desultory manner nearby. The rains, and the main run of salmon that rain would trigger, had not yet begun. Charlie grinned at me, ran his fingers through his thick black hair, then leaned over in a bear-like manner and stirred the water with a calloused paw, peering  intently into the stream. The black bear splashed over and took up a position next to him almost touching his shoulder. I froze, too startled to get my little Balda camera out of my pack. The bear peered intently into the water, and then, realizing there was no fish in sight, backed away slowly, giving Charlie a sidelong glance. His body language said, “Dude—that is not funny.”

We were working one day in a creekbed, picking our way among slimy boulders and fish guts, stringing up a thousand feet of climbing rope between fir trees for an overhead camera sequence. Charlie pointed out a giant flat topped boulder in midstream. “I was playing with a bear on that rock one day, and things got out of hand.”

“Playing?”

“Yeah. I was up there taking a break, and he came down the bank, spotted me, and came up to visit.”

“To visit?”

“Yeah. I’ve come to know him pretty well. I could tell he was feeling playful. He was really inviting me to wrestle. I wasn’t sure if I should, but he was so friendly. Anyway, he stood up. He had a really mischievous gleam in his eye, and I thought what the heck. So I got ready to grapple with him. God, they are so strong! He just knocked me right over. I landed on those boulders.”

“Jesus Christ!”

“Yeah. I could tell he was surprised. I looked up, and he was peering down at me. I think it really puzzled him, how weak humans are. He didn’t mean to hurt me. I was really banged up for a while there.”

“Jesus H. Christ on a crutch. You were playing King-of-the-Castle with a bear?”

“Yeah. I think I went a bit too far that time,” he added, sheepishly.

Those who know Charlie’s books might say he should have known better. He had wrestled with a bear before, in Waterton Park in the ’80s when he and his son, Anthony, then age 11, wandered in between a black bear sow and her cubs. The little sow attacked, and Charlie and Anthony were soon in a tag team bout with her. She knocked Anthony down and Charlie went after her with fists and boots. When she got on top of Charlie, Anthony, armed with a piece of elk antler he had found earlier, whacked her over the head. She then bit Anthony on the behind, and Charlie again attacked until the sow finally retreated. The sow was fine, and the humans escaped with bruises and puncture wounds, but Charlie always said that Anthony had saved his life that day.

As a former park warden I helped capture many bears, but I never felt as reassured around them as I felt in Charlie’s company.

But about that halibut jig. We were sitting in the cook tent over coffee one morning with Sue, Jeff and their daughter Chelsea, when Charlie popped the question I had been dreading. “Will you fly with me?”

Charlie knew I hated flying. I nearly choked on the coffee, set the cup down. “I’d be happy to,” I lied.

The two us, both heavyweights, climbed into the little plane and strapped in, while Jeff Turner pushed us away from the pier. We had a windscreen in front of us, but were otherwise open to the weather. The motor sits behind the passengers on this craft. There was no intercom, so once the motor started conversation was by sign language. We taxied down the inlet and I could see why it was going to be hard to keep this plane aloft just by force of my willpower alone, since there were no armrests to grip in white-knuckled fear while will-powering. Charlie punched me in the shoulder, a big grin on his face, and opened the throttle as we raced down the inlet. This is a short takeoff plane, but our run seemed to go on forever, and we did not lift off the water. Frowning, he slowed down and we taxied back to try it again. I can’t recall how many times we attempted take-off; it seemed like 10 but was probably only three. At last we returned to the pier, the motor idling. “Well, I guess it’s just not in the cards today,” I said, happily.

“No problem,” said Charlie. “I know what we need. Just stay in the plane while I get it.”

He hurried up the beach to camp, and soon returned with his fishing tackle box in one paw. As I watched, puzzled, he pulled out a lead halibut jig with its attached hook, and tied it to the tail-wheel with some fishing line. “We’ve got it now,” he said with a happy grin as he settled back behind the controls.

“We’ve got it? Are we trolling for halibut now?” I asked, mystified.

“Ha! We’re going to catch some air.”

Once more we hurtled down the inlet, two porkers making the ultralight nose heavy. But this time, the halibut jig was just enough tail weight (at 17.6 ounces) to pull the tail down allowing the wings to catch some lift. And we flew around and around up above Princess Royal Island and Laredo Inlet looking for white Kermodes, and scared the hell out of some tourists in a yacht in an 80-mph swoop. And except one time when I took a ride in a sailplane, I felt about as close to being an eagle, and like an eagle, oblivious to fear, as I have ever been.

In Kamchatka Charlie learned how to find a hole in the fog and spiral his plane up into the clear sky. He made many personal sacrifices in choosing to devote his life to finding a way through the foggy notions people have about bears and our relationship to nature. The best way to honour Charlie is to make some new holes in the fog of misunderstanding that keeps people from living at peace with nature, and therefore with ourselves.

This article was originally published in The Tyee, June 1, 2018. Sid Marty is a writer and long-time resident of southern Alberta. He has published five books of non-fiction and three of poetry. His Leaning on the Wind: Under the Spell of the Great Chinook andThe Black Grizzly of Whiskey Creek were finalists for Governor General’s Awards.

Pt. 2: https://albertaviews.ca/part-2-tribute-charlie-russell/?fbclid=IwAR1LNBXAWPNf3NDVk30jyuBCv3QgJUyh9N3O88T1ejmWHyGATKchaCFKYZo

New Russian law forbids killing & mistreating animals, restricts petting zoos & illegal circuses

Published time: 28 Dec, 2018 15:23 Get short URL

New Russian law forbids killing & mistreating animals, restricts petting zoos & illegal circuses A tiger roars during a circus performance. © Sputnik / Evgeny Biyatov

We are responsible for those we tame. And it’s now a law in Russia as Vladimir Putin put his signature under new legislation, which bans killing, pitting and other forms of mistreatment of animals.

The Law on Responsible Treatment of Animals prohibits the killing of animals “under any pretext.” It also outlaws shooting or poisoning stray dogs and cats, which has been happening in many Russian cities in recent years. Homeless animals are to be captured, sterilized, vaccinated and released with a special microchip.

Organizing animal fights and hounding beasts at other animals or people has also been made illegal.

The law orders pets to be kept in proper conditions by their masters. It bans contact or petting zoos from being opened at the malls, which is a common thing across Russia, as well as hosting animals at bars and restaurants.
Also on rt.com Russian Hachiko: Loyal pooch spends weeks outside hospital awaiting master’s recovery (VIDEO)

In April, two bears escaped from a café and caused major havoc in Yaroslavl Region. One of the animals was captured, but the other went to the village and had to be shot dead.

The law makes life harder for numerous semi-legal circuses across Russia, which often use dangerous wild animals in their shows. In October, Russia was shocked after a lioness attacked a four-year-old girl during a traveling circus performance in Krasnodar Region. The child survived but suffered lacerated wounds to the face and other injuries.

The wild animals owned in violation of the law and without a proper license will from now be seized by the state. Hosting them at flats, residential homes and country houses has also been banned.

The new legislation states that an animal can’t be simply thrown into the street, but “should be passed to a new owner or the shelter.”
Camels, ostriches and other exotic creatures have been recently found in the wild in Russia after their disingenuous masters disposed of them.

Dog owners will also face some restrictions as the law obliges them to walk their companions only in specially designated areas. It also allows punishing those, who refuse to pick up feces left by their pets in the street, with fines.

READ MORE: Helpless dog saved from horrible death after getting stuck in middle of frozen Siberian lake (VIDEO)

The legislation, aimed at protecting animal rights, was first introduced to the parliament in 2010 and has taken almost eight years to be finalized by the lawmakers.

https://www.rt.com/russia/447604-russia-animal-rights-law/

Illegal ‘Whale Jail’ Has Been Spotted in Russia, Lifting The Lid on a Massive Animal Exploitation Industry

main article image

PETER DOCKRILL
13 NOV 2018

Over 100 captured whales are being held in small, crowded enclosures in a so-called ‘whale jail’ off the coast of Russia, where they await suspected sale to Chinese theme parks, according to local media reports.

The discovery of the marine containment facility near the city of Nakhodka in Russia’s south-east is being investigated by Russian prosecutors, who are examining whether the detainment is for illegal commercial purposes – in which case the captured animals would be worth a fortune on the black market.

According to Russian news site VL.ru – which obtained a number of photos of the holding pens in Srednyaya Bay – the whale jail is monitored by armed men who walk around the perimeters of the facility, while the animals are held in underwater cages formed by nets.

026 whale jail russia 1(Masha Netrebenko/Facebook)

Independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta reports the giant haul of captured animals – said to be 11 orca whales and 90 beluga whales – represents a record catch for the four companies responsible: LLC Oceanarium DV, LLC Afalina, LLC Bely Kit and LLC Sochi Dolphinarium.

The report claims the virtually unregulated activity of these four companies controls the market for capturing and exporting marine animals, with some of the whales having been kept in crowded confinement since July.

Under international law, whales can be captured for certain scientific, educational, and cultural purposes, but commercial export – in this case, allegedly for sales to Chinese aquariums and entertainment parks – is strictly outlawed.

According to The Telegraph, an individual orca whale can fetch US$6 million on the Chinese black market, and there’s ample demand for the specimens. While China already has some 60 marine parks, a dozen more are reportedly under construction.

“Catching them at this tempo, we risk losing our entire orca population,” Greenpeace Russia research coordinator Oganes Targulyan told The Telegraph.

“The capture quota now is 13 animals a year, but no one is taking into account that at least one orca is killed for every one that is caught.”

While the current allegations remain an open investigation, the new details have emerged in the wake of a previous whale trafficking scandal reported to involve the illegal export of 15 orcas from Russia to China between 2013 and 2017.

While prosecutors investigate, there are also concerns for the way the animals are being kept and transported. Video on YouTube shows whales being moved between tanks, while drone footage shot from overhead just how cramped these poor whales’ captive conditions are.

“Under the guise of enlightenment and culture, dirty business is conducted on rare orcas,” a Greenpeace representative told RIA News (translated).

“They were caught in 2018, allegedly for educational and cultural purposes, but in fact it is about commerce with fabulous profits.”

https://www.sciencealert.com/whale-jail-spied-in-russia-lifts-lid-on-massive-animal-exploitation-industry?fbclid=IwAR0cxiQ5Wp7g4dbCTr_xxhJejZoTWfgkyZyNdHL68mTwwJ9dmOLo4WREo9E