More than 100 whales that were captured and held in cramped pens in the far eastern Russia to perform in aquariums, were placed in trucks to be freed back to their home waters after President Vladimir Putin supported its release.

Eight killer whales and nearly 100 beluga whales, who were held in a “whale jail” were trucked and transported to river boats to the Sea of Okhotsk, where they had originally been caught, according to officials.

This is just the first batch of killer whales transported, while others will follow soon. Meanwhile, the whales belonging to commercial companies that caught the animals for “cultural and educational purposes” destined to aquariums in China are now waiting for closure too after a legal loophole.

“The mammals were loaded successfully and we are counting on them being delivered safe and well,” Kirill Kolonchin, head of the All-Russian Fisheries and Oceanography Institute leading the operation, said in a statement.

Scientists and vets closely monitor the whales being transported back to their original habitat.

Officials said the whole process of transporting and releasing all the whales could take four months.

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