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SAN JUAN ISLAND, WASHINGTON – It’s picture you often see on paintings and wood carvings – a gigantic totemic killer whale, through the images of sea creatures and faces artistically had within the whale’s body.

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The image tells the story the the Tlingit legend the the creation of the killer whale, which goes as follows: Natsilane to be a charismatic and skilled timber carver who married the Chief’s daughter. Jealous of Natsilane’s popularity and also talent, his brothers-in-law devised a setup to give up Natsilane at sea during a traditional sea lion hunt. Left to dice on a tiny rock in the middle of nowhere, Natsilane was summoned under the tide by a sea lion. The sea lion asked him to cure his son who was injured by a spear during the hunt. After ~ pulling the spear point out, the Sea Lion cook granted Natsilane an excellent powers and also helped him ago to shore. Tho angry about being abandoned, he began carving a an excellent whale the end of different species of wood. The first two carvings, when set in the water, merely floated away. However the third, made of yellow cedar, concerned life. Natsilane sent out it to specific revenge top top his brothers-in-law. When the killer whale uncovered them, he smashed their canoe and also killed the brothers. But Natsilane feel badly about what he had done, and also when the whale went back to him, he instructed it to never harm humans again.

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The legend tries to describe something curious around orcas. Castle don’t attack people. The concern is -- why not? ~ above a simple, biological scale they are bigger and stronger than we are, have actually sharper teeth, and they’re carnivores. Any similar creature could see human beings as a tasty small snack, however not orcas.

Observation has presented that one answer might not be much from the ancient legend. Killer whales seem to monitor rules that go beyond an easy instinct and also border ~ above culture. Individual pods forage, communicate and also navigate differently, much the means different cultures of civilization do. Researchers have actually witnessed “greeting ceremonies” between pods. They’ve also seen the tantamount of a funeral. It may really well be the within “orca culture” over there is a social norm no to seek people.


A an ext scientific explanation could be the we’re merely not tasty enough to be consisted of on the killer whales’ menu. Orcas, it transforms out, have picky palates. The southerly Resident Killer Whales that Puget Sound dine on only the fattest Chinook salmon, even if it means allowing an entire school the skinnier salmon come swim by. Transient orcas, which have a wider diet, have shown similar selective behavior, in one instance killing a gray whale but eating only its tongue.

A third possible reason is that we don’t resemble any type of food resource killer whales commonly depend on. There have actually reportedly been cases where one orca attempted come hunt a human, but damaged off the hunt immediately upon realizing it wasn’t a sea lion.

Okay, therefore we’ve developed that killer whales are pretty darned smart -- they have actually a culture with particular behaviors, a stroller, stick diet, and also they recognize that we don’t taste very good. Still, human beings pump toxins right into their water, we bombard them with noise, and sometimes we kidnap their babies and also put castle in aquariums. Orcas have actually a pretty great reason to dislike us, maybe even enough to want to extract revenge, however they don’t. The prize here can be friendship. There room many cases where nomadic killer whales have gravitated come humans, bonding through them and also playing games. Trainers at areas like Sea world say very small goes into orca training. The whales seem to recognize people, and also are passionate to cooperate and also create bonds.

In fact, the only apparent instances the orcas attacking civilization have occurred at aquatic parks, where the whales have killed trainers. Many experts think these assaults are no malicious, rather a situation of play gaining out the hand. Howard Garrett that the Orca Network disagrees. He argues the strikes are deliberate, though not in cold blood. Cut off from their pods, limit in small concrete tanks, and hand fed instead of being allowed to hunt, Garrett think the pressures develop causing the orcas to occasionally lash out.

Whether that’s the case or not, it’s clear the in the wild, orcas it seems to be ~ to have actually a pretty universal rule: don’t assault humans. The factor would show up to it is in both biological and also cultural. Killer whales have been around about 11 million years. Contrasted to them, we room a relatively new species top top the planet. Physical we’re no enhance for this apex predator, yet they’ve reportedly deemed united state worthy the coexistence. We owe castle the same.

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At the an extremely least, we deserve to admire and also respect these creatures, and be grateful to Natsilane for commanding the killer whale to follow the global rule.

See the connected Video, scientific research on the SPOT: Sound waves – Listening come Orcas