Orcas >> Orcas of the Wild

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Inside the Mind of a Whale
      #137594 - 09/15/07 10:58 PM

Older article from Dec 2006. I believe the orcas mentioned are A5 (Top Notch) and A26 (Foster)
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One of the greatest problems facing researchers interested in whale intelligence is a logistical one. It's just not easy to carry out the kind of intense behavioural observations needed, like Jane Goodall's observations of chimpanzees in the wild. For this reason, our understanding of whales falls well short of that of the great apes.

"We're several decades out of kilter," says Mark Simmonds of the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society in Chippenham, UK. Despite the relative lack of information, Simmonds has reviewed a wealth of evidence for apparent emotional and intelligent behaviour in cetaceans (Applied Animal Behaviour Science, vol 100, p 103).

In 1990, for example, two male orcas were observed swimming together without any contact with other orcas for several days, after the body of their mother was found floating dead nearby. They appeared to be retracing their mother's last movements, which researchers tookto be a sign of grief.

Does this mean we should treat them better? Around 200,000 cetaceans are killed annually in fishing nets, and Japanese whaling statistics suggest that just 40 per cent of hunted animals die instantaneously.

"It is clear deaths in hunts and fishing nets may often be prolonged and painful and also significantly affect more members of the population than just the animals killed," says Simmonds. "Meanwhile, if cetaceans are passing information from generation to generation, and you then start to wipe out some of the cultural populations, other populations may not be able to occupy the niches left behind. Should we be focusing on conserving the species, particular groups in oceans, or the cultural groups that they're divided into?"

By: Geddes, Linda, New Scientist (Australia/New Zealand), 10321233, 12/2/2006, Vol. 192, Issue 2580

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~ Kim


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