When Do We Accept That Whales and Dolphins Think?

A bottlenose dolphin, with an S-shaped spinal deformity, is seen here rubbing against a sperm whale. Photograph courtesy Alexander Wilson and Aquatic Mammals

Recently an article written by Linda Poon, of the National Geographic news, covered what has been a rare interspecies event between a deformed bottle-nosed dolphin and sperm whales off the coast of the Azores.

Reading through the article, it was interesting the theories, ideas and thoughts expressed by biologists and behavioral “greats” about whales. I say this because there was too much significance placed into the idea that interspecies events such as these are rare in a marine setting, that there was more emphasis on “why” rather than noting the event and recognizing that cetaceans are social, caring and self-aware.

Mind you, none of these “specialists” have the ability to communicate directly with these creatures, yet they have lots of opinions about it! In a completely different area yet similar, as an artist, I have experienced business executives working with me on a creative project. They may know nothing about art, but they certainly have many opinions about it!

What Do We Really Know About Whales?

In the hundred years or so that we have begun studying cetaceans, one thing has been determined. Cetaceans are self-aware. They also have pods and social hierarchies. Their brains are much larger than ours and they can perform feats we can only dream of or resolve same by creating machines to do what they do naturally.

So when researchers start guessing about what is happening when viewing such an event, most ignore that maybe, just maybe, these creatures have feelings and emotions. That does not mean anthropomorphic emotions (human emotions) but emotions just the same. And since they have emotions, these emotions are the result of a reasoning and cognitive mind.

That area has gone by the wayside, and the assumptions are things like “no threat”. Or its deformed shape forced it to align with the whale pod. Did anyone see this occur? Well no… but there are a lot of people who accept these opinions because the person making the statement “has spent years watching and tracking these animals.”

Hmmmmmm….I guess it makes for news, possibly a good story. But does the story consider the idea that creatures do come together in times of need. Why is that so hard to consider? Maybe because it then places responsibility on those in high places to question the right to hunt, kill or display cetaceans – in other words profit from them. And what was more interesting was a video that went viral about two years ago. In seaquarium, suddenly a dolphin blew a bubble in the shape of a perfect smoke ring! And it was done repeatedly! The news picked it up, everyone said “wow!”.

Now, I ask you, could you do that? Takes some intelligence. Then a behavioralist was consulted and the comment was “a learned behavior”.

Duh, ya think?

I was down in Baja, California with gray whales. In a small boat, I witnessed a forty-ton female lift its newborn toward the boat to be touched by humans. Now what does a behavioralist have to say about that?

What do you think?

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Category: Whales | 1 Comment »

One Response

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