Vladimir Putin: The Whale Hunter

By Sarah Amos

Aug 26, 2010 8:06am

Alexander Marquardt reports from Moscow: Tigers, leopards, elk, polar bears, brown bears and now whales.  On Wednesday, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin added the mammals to a long list of animal photo-ops that enhance his action man image.    Bouncing on the waves off of the eastern Kamchatka Peninsula in a small rubber zodiac, perched at the bow with a crossbow, Putin fired four darts at a gray whale to collect skin samples.  “I hit it on the fourth try!” Putin shouted from the boat to reporters on the beach, according to the Associated Press.
Back on terra firma, he was asked if the outing was dangerous. “Living in general is dangerous,” Putin responded, wearing a black beanie and decked out in orange and black ocean gear. It was Putin’s second animal outing in as many days.  On Tuesday he visited a nature reserve with brown bears in the Far East to highlight bear poaching. Asked Wednesday why he’s drawn to excursions like whale chasing, he quipped, “Because I like it. I love nature.” Environmentalists would probably take issue with that.  Putin was slammed earlier this year for re-opening a pulp and paper mill on Lake Baikal, the world’s deepest freshwater lake and a UNESCO World Heritage site.  The International Fund for Animal Welfare released a statement after Putin’s escapade Wednesday drawing attention to state-run oil company Rosneft’s seismic survey in the same area that is threatening the waters’ gray whales. Russians have grown accustomed to Putin’s adventurous, tough guy antics.  The black-belted (in judo) premier was recently photographed co-piloting a plane that doused some of the forest fires that ravaged the country earlier this summer. What we have yet to see this summer, however, is one of Putin’s famous shirtless photo shoots.  But there’s still time.

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