Belugas talking like people! Or at least one! »
So this is what can happen when a beluga lives in San Diego for seven years.
We do not claim that our whale was a good mimic compared to such well-known mimics as parrots or mynah birds. However, the sonic behavior we observed is an example of vocal learning by the white whale. It seems likely that NOC’s close association with humans played a role in how often he employed his human voice, as well as in its quality.
You really must listen to this recording of NOC talking [mp3], it is the weirdest thing you will hear all week.
Humpback whales are pop music geniuses! »
As any yoga-loving hippie weirdo (HUGS) will tell you, humpback whale songs are the most relaxing way to decompress while you’re posing in svetlana or whatever it’s called. satsuma. saunasauna. The relaxing pose. Anyway, now we know more about what exactly the songs are!
David Rothenberg, a musician and environmental philosopher, writes:
The mainstream scientific view about humpback whale song is that it’s all a kind of pop music evolutionary strategy; that the whales all like the same hit song, but it has to be a continually changing new “hit.” Just like humans listening to Top 40 radio, quickly getting bored with the latest chart topper and always craving the next variant.
They’re creating their own hits! Suck it, Adele, these whales are rolling in the deep, FOR REAL.
[photo, “A female humpback whale and its calf,” by OAR/National Undersea Research Program via NYT]
Voice of the Orcas, a site created by former SeaWorld employees, has released a series of pictures depicting the disturbing world of orcas in captivity. I find this picture so sad—look at the dorsal fin! And the pool is so pathetic.
Digital Journal has done an excellent job posting the photos with a great deal of corresponding information. I suggest you read that. And if you’re up for it, this is your chance to see the process of artificially inseminating orcas. Dick pics and all.
Dolphins are people too: Non-human persons and the right to live »
Apparently this science conference in Vancouver over the weekend was pretty interesting! They didn’t just talk about test tube burgers, they also talked about non-human persons! Man, what did I do this weekend? The only scientific advancement I made was in regard to my tolerance for rail vodka (but I assure you, we made great strides). Non-human persons are much more interesting. The idea is that there are animals with intelligence and consciousness that should grant them the right to life.
A group of scientists and ethicists made the case this past weekend for “the declaration of rights for cetaceans,” under which, dolphins, whales, and porpoises would have the enforceable right to live:
“We’re saying the science has shown that individuality, consciousness and self-awareness are no longer unique human properties. That poses all kinds of challenges,” said Tom White, director of the Centre for Ethics and Business at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.
“Dolphins are non-human persons. A person needs to be an individual. And if individuals count, then the deliberate killing of individuals of this sort is ethically the equivalent of deliberately killing a human being. The captivity of beings of this sort, particularly in conditions that would not allow for a decent life, is ethically unacceptable, and commercial whaling is ethically unacceptable,” White said.
How interesting! Was this the idea behind Tilikum v. Seaworld? If the declaration were incorporated into law, Seaworld and the like would not be allowed to keep whales.
The declaration is backed by experts and relies on the massive amounts of research that has been done on cetaceans in the past. Dolphins are said to be able to identify themselves in a mirror, use symbol-based language, use tools, learn skills and pass them on, and have individual personalities. Does that grant them rights? The UN is considering the declaration as part of its convention on migratory species.
You really should read this Guardian piece on the whole thing as it has the most amazing stories about a rascally dolphin named Kelly who learned more and more ways to trick her captors into forking over more treats! Speaking of which, I’m working on my declaration of rights for rascals. Kelly would certainly be protected under the DRR. As would chimps, elephants, and Alan Thicke.
You can sign the declaration of rights for cetaceans here!
NYC: The Whalentine’s Day Bake Sale is Feb. 12! »
You can still sign up to bring baked goods, all the info regarding that is on their Facebook page. If you are just coming to shop, they ask that you bring your own containers to take your yums home, so we keep the environmental impact to a minimum! Good thinking.
From what I hear, there will be chocolate lollipops, Rice Krispies treats, carrot cake, croissants—not to mention mini cupcakes, mini donuts, and mini pies! I love a mini treat. You know what else I love? SHOES*. So be there or be, etc.
*UPDATE: I hear Mooshoes will be donating 10% of all in-store sales that day to Sea Shepherd! Go Mooshoes!
Orcas breaching off Newport Beach! Amazing! “Dozens of killer whales were spotted along the coast from Dana Point to Long Beach last week as they migrate to Mexico,” per L.A. Now via LAist. Perhaps they’re enjoying the warmer southern ocean waters, though no one really has a handle on migration patterns.
Still, how wonderful! Whale watching is the funnest best when you see actual whales, or even when you see awesome things like enormous basking sharks swimming alongside the boat, man that was the best day. The ocean! I love it!
Photographer Brian Skerry had “a magical day with a right whale” and you know what? It sounds pretty magical. Right whales are so weird-looking and also amazing! And apparently this one wanted to hang out with some tiny harmless human beings for hours and hours.
National Geographic is the best! Love those crazy photographers.
[Ed.: Also, “The testicles of right whales are likely to be the largest of any animal, each weighing around 500 kg (1,100 lb)” Dang, son! - Laura]
Book review: The Tourist Trail, by John Yunker »
You guys, I honestly don’t like being super-negative, especially about things that mean well, like fiction written by and about animal activists. Laura likes to sell my positive reviews as big deals because I “hate everything,” but I don’t, I swear. I just have high standards! For everything! Including myself, which translates to “trying to be better than a big jerk about things that don’t meet my expectations.” Besides, that’s what Goodreads is for.
Ashland Creek Press sent me a copy of John Yunker’s The Tourist Trail, and honestly, I didn’t much care for it. The premise is interesting enough: a lonely scientist studying penguins in South America meets-cute with an eco-terrorist captain of a Sea Shepherd-style anti-whaling vessel. Meanwhile, an FBI agent—with a past!—and his partner hunt the eco-terrorist, and a programmer follows his vegan activist crush onto a Sea Shepherd-style anti-whaling vessel. Connections!
The vegan twist is that there are vegans and they are heroic, and The Man is the enemy. Also, animals are awesome and humans shouldn’t be such dicks about using up all the earth’s resources, lest we unintentionally murder all the animals we aren’t intentionally murdering. Like I said, an interesting premise with a decent twist.
My main problem with The Tourist Trail is the actual writing. It’s clunky, and stilted, and the plot machinations are so painfully obvious—the plot twists send up flares and wave flags from miles away. It’s disappointing, I think, to read a novel that’s excellent thematically but really poorly executed.
You know what, though? It’s very Dan Brown. It’s Dan Brown writes a pro-vegan eco-thriller. If that sounds good to you, then read The Tourist Trail. If not, there are plenty more books in the world out there. Like The Murder of the Century, that was pretty great.
A girl and her dolphin! »
My parents are in London at the moment, visiting my cousin and his sweetie pie little daughters, Sophia and Joanna. Turns out, Sophia has taken a shine to the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society and adopted her own dolphin! I asked her to write a little bit about the WDCS and she was kind enough to oblige!:
I became interested in WDCS when I was reading my nature magazine (National Geographic, Kids). At the end of it was an adoption form and a bit of information about WDCS. They allow anybody to adopt a dolphin, whale or porpoise, but it is actually aimed at kids. I adopted a dolphin called Moonlight; she has a one year old calf called Mellow Yellow. Here is a picture of a dolphin:
WDCS is:The global voice for whales, dolphins, porpoises and their environment.
Here is a link to where you can find out more about Moonlight.
Click here for the kid’s zone.
-Cousin Sophia Rascal, Age 10, UK
I know, she’s very well spoken. She’s also a mean soccer player! Or football player, as they would say. Now I want to adopt a dolphin! No I probs would adopt a whale. I feel so bad for them all the time. Sigh. Let’s just look at the cute dolphin drawing!
Top 10 links of the week!: A devilish jaunt through the recesses of veganism! »
[Your adorbs viral animal video of the week. This looks like my dog but he’s way better at piano!]
First, I would like to congratulate our Malcolm Fontier wallet giveaway winners!: JKid and Samantha M! But really you are all winners and we will have many more giveaways in the future.
In exciting mainstream news, CNN has a fairly positive piece about young vegans and vegetarians! We’re taking over!
Can slaughter house pigs benefit from Ikea toys? What about not being in slaughterhouses? Would that help at all?
Ever wonder what’s in the McRib? 70 ingredients! Including a “bleaching agent!”
Be sure you pay attention to Farm Sanctuary’s twitter today because it’s got a lot of great info from the Factory Farming Conference. By “great” of course I mean disturbing.
Did you know it’s National (Vegan) Chocolate Day?! We must celebrate!
In San Francisco news, some fuckers shot a hawk with a nail gun. It’s being treated for injuries now. WHYYY?
Humpback whale populations are rebounding slightly better than we thought! Congrats, humans.
Here’s a really crazy/interesting piece the Humane Society alerted me to: Ag’s go-to messaging not resonating. It seems people don’t trust Big Ag! I can’t imagine why!
Hey, fish-eaters! Do you diligently select fish species that are low in mercury and not in (as much) danger of over-fishing? Good luck with that! Consumer Reports has a new study, Mystery Fish, that’s going to put a snag in your plan.
As always, don’t forget to read Laura’s Week in Vegan! It’s always chocked full of good shiz.