Thursday, December 29, 2016

Humpbacks, the Heroes of the Sea

You know what's cool? Animals! Animals are cool. And they help get our minds off the horrible things humans do. Until you start thinking about all the animals going extinct from the horrible things humans do.

Goddamn humans.

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I'm so sorry.

Seriously, this was supposed to be a quick, lighthearted post. Let's get back to that...

A few months back I saw several stories about humpback whales "protecting" smaller aquatic animals. Apparently, humpback whales have a habit of interfering with orca hunts and generally wrecking killer whales' shit. 

Like so.

The question is: why? These are not isolated incidents, they are happening all over. There are at least 115 reported cases of similar encounters over the years. In one case, humpbacks stopped orcas from eating a baby gray whale they had already killed. Over 14 humpbacks basically stood (swam? floated?) vigil over the dead baby and kept the orcas away. 

Why would they do that for a different whale species, or a completely different type of animal, like with the seal in the video above? The humpbacks could have been harmed and had to waste a lot of energy, not something most adult animals willingly do, unless it's for food. Maybe they were planning to eat the seal or the gray whale calf themselves?

Except, they eat krill, so that can't be it. Even weirder: a swarm of krill was in the area during the gray whale vigil, and the humpbacks ignored it!

Maybe humpbacks are simply empathetic? Maybe they see themselves as protectors of the ocean. Guardians of the Galax-SEA, if you will.  

I will not, and that is not the answer. But people love placing human emotions and behaviors on animals. I've heard/seen a variation of the following claims too many times to count: "Maybe humpbacks take pity on the less powerful creatures and want to protect them out of the goodness of their own hearts. Maybe they just want to be friends with the seals!" It's similar to that video of the polar bear "petting" the dog.

Cute! The bear likes him! They should be in a buddy film together!

Of course, the part of the story that didn't go viral is that the same polar bear ate a dog earlier in the week. Oops! When he puts his giant paw on the dog's head and pulls it towards him, it doesn't quite look so friendly anymore, huh?

Decades of Disney movies have made us completely incapable of thinking about animals rationally. We can't put human emotions and values on animals (especially wild animals) in real life. The humpback's behavior is damn peculiar, but it's not empathy for other species. It's all predicated on their own survival.

The prevailing scientific theory (not the theory from your vegan cousin on Facebook who calls her 4 rabbits, 6 cats, 3 gerbils and 2 yellow labs her "children") is that it's a way to protect their own; orcas often attack baby humpbacks, so when humpbacks attack orcas, it's a preemptive strike. They want to send the murderous orcas a message.

Humpbacks are the most American marine mammal in existence!

Or, they simply fucking hate orcas. To be fair, orcas are dicks. Look at this asshole toss this poor turtle:

Screw that guy. Maybe Sea World had it right all along. Free Willy? No, Fuck Willy. (Not you, Stoned Willy.) Long live the humpback! They're not endangered, right?

Well, kinda, but their population is increasing! Turns out, humans actually did something good and banned commercial whaling of humpbacks in 1966. Cool!

Oh, wait. Japan, Norway and Iceland still hunt humpbacks? Dammit, mankind! More like man-NOT-so-kind, amirite?

Much like that pun, we suck. So much for the lighthearted post.

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Sorry. Please don't look at me like that.

I Love You All...Class Dimissed. 

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