Sometimes, to understand a world of another, it’s important to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes … or, uh, swim a mile in someone else’s fins. In doing so, we usually realize that we’re not so different from each other.
This photo by Kyle Taylor at Byron Bay in Australia shows us that perhaps we have more in common with orcas than we think. With this human’s hand assuming the famed surfer’s “right on” position, we see it almost perfectly mirroring the whale’s tail.
How are whales like us, you ask? Well, for one, they are extremely intelligent and emotional – just like us! (Our intelligence in context of how we often treat these animals, however, is debatable, of course). The brain of the orca is four times larger than the human brain, weighing in at 12 pounds. Their brains have been evolving for millions of years, while modern-day humans first emerged about 200,000 years ago, so it’s safe to assume that their cognitive development is at least as advanced as ours – if not considerably more so! And with complex familial and social relationships, we can gather that these creatures are highly self-aware and adaptable. These animals live in tight matrilineal pods, composed of grandmothers, mothers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, and cousins. They typically choose to remain with their immediate family group for the rest of their lives. We bet they have family drama, just like us!
We ought to do everything we can to make sure they live an amazing life, right? Just like us, whales do not want to spend their life in prison. But sadly, many whales are cruelly torn from their natural habitat and relegated to a life spent in captivity. This is a highly traumatizing experience for this sensitive beings. Throughout their lives in captivity, orcas display zoochotic (psychotic) behaviors, similar to prison neurosis. Some stereotypic behaviors include swimming in circles repetitively, establishing pecking orders, and lying motionless at the surface or on the aquarium floor for relatively long periods of time.
How You Can Help
- If you want to see orcas, the best way to do so is to witness them in their wild, natural habitat.
- Educate yourself. If you want to be a more outspoken advocate for captive whales, make an effort to find out more about the complex legal, political, and financial factors at play in the whale captivity industry. “Death at SeaWorld,” David Kirby’s disturbing exposé of the industry, is a good place to start.
- There are many marine protection groups dedicated to the well-being and preservation of orcas – both wild and captive – including Whale and Dolphin Conservation, the Oceanic Preservation Society, the Humane Society of the United States, and Keep Whales Wild. You could make a financial donation, or volunteer with initiatives such as event planning, fundraising, or petition drives.
Image Source: Kyle Taylor/Facebook