If the pen is mightier than the sword, then a tweet could be just be as potent. Just look at the likes of President Donald Trump—celebrity-turned-President—and you can see what an array of responses he has evoked with his tweets.
On Feb. 26, DiCaprio tweeted: “Please sign this petition and join me in speaking out against the inhumane capture of orcas and belugas in Russia.”
Please sign this petition and join me in speaking out against the inhumane capture of orcas and belugas in Russia. https://t.co/OED9zJ9fnz
— Leonardo DiCaprio (@LeoDiCaprio) February 26, 2019
DiCaprio linked a petition from Change.org that has since garnered over 1 million signatures. The petition called for the release of approximately 100 whales who have been held by Russia, and “is the largest number of sea creatures to ever be held in small temporary enclosures.”
According to Reuters, 11 orcas and 87 beluga whales were held captive in cages in Russia’s Far East. It is unknown when these whales were first held captive, but pictures show they were held in 2018 at a bay near Nakhodka in Russia, according to Metro. Some have been held in captivity since July 2018, according to Change.org.
News of the incident reached as far as Russian President Vladimir Putin, who then personally stepped in, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
“We are doing everything we can,” Ecology Minister Dmitry Kobylkin said on Feb. 28.
“No one objects to releasing the orcas, but the most important thing is to release them properly,” Kobylkin said, listing cold weather as one of the obstacles to freeing the whales without causing them any harm.
The petition said that the whales were being sold to Chinese aquariums, where “thousands of millions of dollars” could be made, despite that legally the whales “are only supposed to be used for scientific and educational work.”
— IFLScience (@IFLScience) March 6, 2019
The petition added that “15 of the belugas are yearlings that are completely dependent on the mothers for survival. Yearlings need to be in constant tactile contact with a parent—in case of danger their mother will fight to the death to keep them alive.”
Actor Pamela Anderson also took part in the conversation and urged the Russian president to release the whales.
In an open letter published on Feb. 24, Anderson said: “I understand that the Russian Government has taken initial steps toward the release of these magnificent creatures back into the wild, in their home waters of the Russian Far East.
“We hope that your government will work together with Russian ecologists and international specialists to develop a professional plan to return these orca and beluga whales to the wild.”
Spokesman for the Russian President, Dmitry Peskov said: “The Russian Presidential Administration’s Control Directorate will deal with the issue and keep it under its special control,” according to Russian New Agency TASS.
Russia’s federal security service, the FSB, has since charged four companies for breaking fishing laws. The four companies were suspected to have captured the whales illegally, The Associated Press reported.
“Expertise showed that the animals were kept in unsatisfactory conditions, and must be released into their natural habitat,” the FSB said.
— Dolphin Project (@Dolphin_Project) March 5, 2019
A detailed plan for the release and adaption of the whales will be “released soon,” Russian Natural Resources Minister Dmitry Kobylkin said on March 4.
It’s amazing how influential celebrities can be when they fight for a cause—from only a tweet!