When the world learned last winter about the existence of a watery prison holding dozens of whales in Russia’s Far East, environmentalists such as Oganes Targulyan feared the creatures were doomed.

Targulyan, a longtime campaigner for Greenpeace based in Moscow, says the likelihood of the whales surviving a prolonged stay in iced-over pens seemed remote. The facility, located in a bay near the port town of Nakhodka, became known worldwide as Russia’s whale jail.

But seven months after a promise by Russian President Vladimir Putin to free the 97 whales, the last of the creatures are now swimming free.

Targulyan admits he’s probably more surprised than anyone by the positive outcome.

“We can see from satellite [tracking] marks that some orcas have joined their wild brothers and sisters and the belugas are moving and not in a bad situation,” he told CBC News.

“We expected it would be much worse.”


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