Two killer whales which have been held captive in cramped conditions in Moscow for almost a year may become deaf and insane, an animal rights group has warned.
The cries of the seven-year-old female and five-year-old male can be heard from the covered tanks at the VDNKh exhibition centre in the Russian capital where they have been kept for 10 months, according to members of the Vita animal rights group.
The orcas were supposed to housed at the new VDNKh aquarium in spring 2014. But delays in constructions mean the creatures are living in temporary facilities, police told Vita according to the St. Petersburg Times.
It is predicted that the aquarium will not open until 2015.
Irina Novozhilova, head of Vita, has claimed in a statement that the creatures are living in "solitary confinement cells".
Vita has gained the support of other animal rights groups and experts in its bid to raise awareness of the situation, with Aleksandr Burdin, the director of the Far East Russia Orca Project, comparing the orcas’ habitat with “putting a human in 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,” Burdin said.
Grigory Tsidulko, a renowned biologist and the director of the Russian arm of the Antarctic Ocean Alliance, said in the statement that it was very difficult to recreate a killer whale’s natural habitat in captivity.
“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.
He added that even when re-housed in an aquarium, the applause of spectators echoing inside will likely almost deafen the whales.
Moscow City Police have refused to launch an investigation into the allegations, as intentionally killing or seriously maiming an animal is a punishable offence, but housing animals in poor conditions is not.
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”.
In a statement released on Monday, VDNKh management deny participating in the whale transfer.