Some of the world's most majestic creatures are being kept in cramped conditions in an illegal "whale jail" in Russia, activists say. Prosecutors in the city of Vladivostok in Russia's Far East opened an investigation after drone video was released showing dozens of beluga whales and orcas crammed into holding pens in Srednyaya Bay, CNN reports. Prosecutors believe around 90 beluga whales and 11 orcas are being kept in the pens, likely for illegal sale to aquariums and theme parks in China. CBS reports that some of the whales have been in the pens since July.
International law has banned the capture of whales for anything but scientific and educational purposes, which would make the alleged Russian sales illegal. Activists say at least some of the captured beluga whales appear to be calves, whose capture for any reason is banned. After an investigation, Novaya Gazeta said at least four Russian companies were selling orcas and belugas to China. It accused them of plundering Russia's resources as well as treating whales cruelly. "Where is it written that the biological resources of the country can be scattered left and right?" the paper wrote, per CNN. (Scientists are worried about the future of North American right whales.)