Let us recall that in November 2019, 50 whales were released from the “whale prison” in Primorye. Since then, local residents have often encountered animals that attract attention. They swim up to the boats, dive under the saps and get very close to the shore. So how should you behave when meeting these playful animals?
It’s important to remember not to try contacting beluga whales. Don’t use fish, touch them or take flash photos. Doing so may frighten them. Remember, these fish are wild, not pets. Don’t try to make them friendly. If you want to take pictures of beluga whales, it’s best not to go too close. This is because the camera might scare them with the noise and flash.
Don’t forget that beluga whales are wild animals. Of course, now they are used to people feeding and caring for them, but this is bad for them. They must obtain their own food in order to once again become free marine inhabitants. If, during the period of socialization of animals, they become attached to humans, then this can be dangerous both by simplifying poaching and hunting of aquatic animals, and by further dependence of beluga whales on people. And the contact itself can be dangerous not only for the animals themselves, but also for people.
You should not try to swim with beluga whales, as you would with dolphins in a dolphinarium. It is important to remember that the animals there are trained and that the trainer controls everything. Wild animals can whip their tails at any moment and even kill a person if they get scared. Although beluga whales are predators, they feed on small fish; you should not be afraid of their bite.
Now it is very important to help beluga whales adapt to their new conditions and become wild and predatory again. They were recently released from the “whale prison” and are very friendly towards people, but this should not be taken advantage of under any circumstances.
Why do beluga whales swim towards people?
According to specialists from the Pacific branch of the Federal State Budgetary Institution “VNIRO” (“TINRO”), the interest of these cetaceans in humans is explained by a number of factors such as: developed communication skills, multi-level social connections, search for food sources and natural curiosity.
At the same time, despite the friendly and curious behavior of individual beluga whales, it should be remembered that each representative of these marine mammals is not a pet, but an independent animal with its own character and interests.
Are belugas dangerous for humans?
According to scientific data, adult male beluga whales reach a weight of 850–1500 kg, females – ranging from 650 to 1360 kg, with an average body length of 3.6–4.2 meters. Beluga whales spotted in Primorye are probably still young. Judging by the available photo and video materials, they depict beluga whales measuring about 3.5-4.0 meters and weighing approximately 600-800 kg. Now they are close to the age of puberty, demonstrating some behavioral traits characteristic of adolescents: susceptibility to momentary moods, rashness of actions, craving for entertainment and exploration of the world around them.
If the meeting took place on the water while walking on a boat, you should not be active and approach the animals. A moving boat or motor boat can cause an animal a strong blow on its side or injure it with its propeller. On the other hand, it should be borne in mind that large beluga whales are capable of strongly pushing and even capsizing a small boat or boat – simply out of curiosity or during play.
If beluga whales approach while swimming, you should not try to contact them. Even when playing, such a large animal can accidentally injure a person. Hitting a beluga whale with its head or tail blade can stun a person, and this is extremely dangerous, especially in water. Large conical teeth can cause a nasty wound. Although beluga whales are not known for their aggressive behavior, caution and prudence must be exercised when interacting with these large cetaceans.
Infections and parasites in beluga whales
In their natural habitat, beluga whales, like humans, suffer from various viral and bacterial diseases. Some dangerous diseases for beluga whales and humans are common, for example, coronavirus infection and various parasites. In addition, these marine mammals all suffer from helminthiasis, becoming infected with worms when feeding on fish. About 20 species of helminths were found in them, 11 of which are specific to them.
How to behave around animals
When meeting beluga whales, you should refrain from touching and stroking. If you want to take photographs or shoot video, you need to turn off the flash and avoid loud, sharp, frightening sounds.
Under no circumstances should you come into close contact with them – this is dangerous for both parties. Without the appropriate experience, it is almost impossible to timely track changes in an animal’s mood; its behavior is unpredictable.
Taking into account the abundance of food in the coastal waters of Primorye in the summer season, the likelihood of encountering beluga whales and other marine mammals is quite high. Scientists ask residents and guests of the region to show responsibility and, for the sake of momentary pleasure, not to take risks, endangering themselves and loved ones.
Do beluga whales have the ability to communicate interspecifically?
There was a recorded case where beluga whales learned the language of dolphins kept in captivity with them. They are known to be able to imitate the calls of seabirds. In the 60s of the last century, the American military trained them to find unexploded mines and torpedoes, and the animals coped with this task very successfully.
The US Navy has discovered the unique talent of a male beluga whale named Nok, who was born and raised in captivity. Scientists working for the naval department, to their indescribable surprise, discovered that constant exposure to human surroundings taught him to imitate human speech.
Divers who worked in Nok’s presence used the word “out” as a signal to surface. Communication was carried out via a special radio channel. At some point, the scuba diver, who was underwater, heard the word he was looking for and obediently surfaced. It turned out that none of the people gave this command.
Assuming that the “speaker” was Nok, who swam close to the transmitter, scientists began to record the sounds produced by the beluga whale. It turned out that the marine mammal imitates the rhythm, amplitude, frequencies and intervals between words of English speech. It was hypothesized that Nok, by making these sounds, was either having fun out of boredom or asking to be released. It is clear that the final answer in this case could not be established.
In 2009, a beluga whale named Mila performed heroically and clearly demonstrated the ability for interspecies “communication.” During a freediving competition in China, she saved a young diver whose legs were cramped underwater. As the name of the competition suggests, participants were not allowed to use oxygen cylinders, and the girl risked choking.
Mila was in the pool, as the winner of the competition was selected to become a trainer of sea animals. If you believe the reports that appeared in the world media, the beluga realized that something was wrong, swam up to the diver, and carefully pulled her to the surface by the leg.
It would not be amiss to mention that in 2018 beluga whales entered the so-called “Grandmothers Club”. The organizers of this extremely original community include animals, the older generation of which shares knowledge with the younger generation. Previously, elephants, killer whales and some primates were enrolled in the club.
Within herds, adult beluga whales are known to show their offspring where to find food and how to avoid predators. At the same time, social relationships in their communities may be more complex than those of other species included in the “Granny Club”. It has been observed that older animals like to stay together. They prefer to raise their close relatives and those with whom they “made friends.” Overall, we have a lot to learn from these wonderful animals. Not only do they have to learn from people…