MOSCOW, August 22. /TASS/. All orcas released from the so-called whale prison in Russia's Far Eastern Sredinnaya Bay reached their traditional habitat and adapt successfully among wild animals of their species, the Russian Research Institute of Fishery and Oceanography (VNIRO) has said in a statement.
"The animals adapt successfully to natural conditions, they reached the traditional habitat of wild animals of their species and have high chances of reuniting with them," the statement reads.
The conclusion is based on signals received from satellite tags, as well as photos and video footage of their migration.
"All the released animals have eventually reached the Shantar Islands, where they were caught and where their families might be. They have not lost their natural instincts in captivity, one can say for sure that they started to procure food on their own and to establish social ties with their wild counterparts," the statement quoted VNIRO deputy director in charge of scientific work, Vyacheslav Bizikov, as saying.
Five families of wild orcas, comprising over 30 animals, have been detected in the Shantar Islands area. Recently, scientists obtained data indicating that an orca with a satellite tag was moving within a group of wild animals.
Eleven orcas had been kept in the facility in Srednyaya Bay along with 90 beluga whales for sale to China. However, three beluga whales went missing, and one orca reportedly disappeared. Criminal charges have been filed over the illegal poaching of these mammals.
In June, the mammals had gradually been moved to the Shantar Islands, where they would be released into their natural habitat. The first group of mammals, consisting of two orcas and six beluga whales, was released into the wild on June 27. The second batch of three orcas was freed on July 16, and the third group of orcas was sent from Primorye to the Khabarovsk Region on August 1.
The operation to release the fourth group, comprising two orcas and six beluga whales, will begin on August 22.