01/16/2014 09:16 EST | Updated 03/18/2014 05:59 EDT

Orca Whale Exhibit At Sochi Winter Olympics Sparks Outrage

Other common name: orca. Vancouver Aquarium, British Columbia, Canada. Largest member of the dolphin family. Highly active, gregarious animals; usually found in family groups called pods, but individuals not uncommon. Found throughout world's oceans.

Environmental groups and whale researchers are urging Olympic organizers to condemn the display of two captured killer whales at the Sochi Winter Games.

A Russian company captured seven orca whales in the sea of Okhotsk last summer, northeast of Japan, and is now preparing to ship two of them to its aquarium in Sochi to cash in on the upcoming Olympic Games.

B.C.-based whale researcher Paul Spong says it's deplorable that the company is doing this, adding that it’s not in the Olympic spirit.

“When they're captured, their families are just ripped apart,” says Spong. “And when they're put into captivity, they're really subject to sensory deprivation for years and years and years — it's hugely damaging to them."

Spong and other environmental groups want the International Olympic Committee to pressure the captors to release the whales back into the wild.

An online petition asking for the same at Care2 Petitions already has over 93,000 signatories opposed to the Russian action. So far there's been no response from the Russian government, nor from Canada's Olympic Committee.

A spokesperson for Canada's Olympic Committee says it's aware of the issue, but is not prepared to make a public statement yet.

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