Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Whales, sharks and more bloody questions.

I went whale watching on a friend's boat recently. It was a beautiful morning. The humpbacks were feeling friendly and it took less than an hour to sight a pod. One of them breached quite close to our boat.

Sighting of a blow. Can you see Sydney in the background?
I only managed to catch the whale on its way back down. 
And as it waved goodbye.
I wish I could say I took this picture of a humpback. Alas, it's from HERE.

We're very serious about whale conservation in Australia and rightly so.

But did you know that many sharks are also protected in Australia and around the world? 

How on earth did a top predator of the ocean become an endangered species requiring protection? If you have some time, a strong stomach, and are interested in finding out,  CLICK HERE for the Pew Report.
This scary pic from HERE. Quite a few species are listed as threatened including everyone's favourite set of jaws.

There was sadly another fatal shark attack in WA, just 11 days ago [which is probably why I've been thinking about today's topic]. In these situations, a hunt is usually called to find the rogue animal. In this case, almost immediately, the protected species status of the great white came into question. There was some concern that tourists might be too afraid to go to the beach. 

Informal polls and comments on news reports, facebook and blogs however, seem to indicate that most people would like to see the great white's protected status maintained.
Check out this timeline of shark attacks in Australian waters over the last decade.

While the number of attacks appear to have increased of late, the average fatality in Australia over the last 50 years, has been less than 1 human per year. 

I think I may have more chance of being killed stepping out onto a pedestrian crossing on Darling Street.

By comparison, guess how many sharks get killed in a year? According to the Pew Report above, about 73 million. I don't even know how you can count a number like that.


I get disturbed when I read this sort of stuff. There's a lot of noise in my head and I find it difficult to organize it into coherent sentences. It took me the better part of an hour to word the 3 questions below and I expect my thoughts on the subject will be contentious and unpopular. But here goes anyway.

Should maintaining our comfort, safety and way of life always take precedent over that of animals, even endangered ones? [I don't think so.]

Do you think we discriminate when it comes to [protecting] animals and are partial to saving cute ones? [I do.]

Do you think it does any good to hunt down and kill an animal that has killed a human? [I don't, unless it can be proven that the animal's action was pre-meditated.]

What are YOUR thoughts? And do you have other questions yourself?



"Yeah I do! Anyone want to know if I'm still farting?"




2 helpful reads before you next get in the water. 

+ 10 myths about sharks by Valerie Taylor.
2. TRUE: Sharks are attracted to swimming dogs

Sharks’ curiosity attracts them to any unusual creature in their environment. A small animal like a dog is more likely to be considered prey than a big animal. 

+ 13 tips for avoiding a shark attack.
11. Avoid swimming or surfing at dawn, dusk or night. These are typically the feeding times for a lot of sharks.

And look what I found when I googled "are cute animals better protected than ugly dangerous ones"


He set out to describe what attributes make animals attractive to humans. The successful candidate will exhibit:
  • Usefulness (providing humans with food, clothing or medicine);
  • Human-like traits, such as having a high forehead and expressive eyes and being a mammal, or at least a vertebrate;
  • Be large and fierce. For some reason we like dangerous animals, and are fascinated with their weapons, from teeth to horns. (Watch any kid in the dinosaur gallery.) Small thinks this may explain the fact that tigers are the kings of global conservation efforts;
  • It must live above ground, preferably in a family setting showing off the mother with adorable cubs or kittens (one Toronto conservationist calls such animals “the cuddlies”);
  • It should not smell bad;
  • It helps to be warm-blooded;
  • Bright colours also help while being covered with scales, or a slimy skin, is bad;
  • Attractive animals eat “clean” food. We don’t like scavengers and carrion-pickers;
  • Traits that are unhealthy in humans should be avoided. We have little urge to conserve animals with warts, bow legs, wrinkles (except for elephants), irregular teeth or a habit of drooling.


For what it's worth, my instructions to the Other Half, if I should get attacked or killed by a wild animal, is to let it be. He's left the same instructions with me. [We like being prepared for 1-in-a-squillion chance events.]

The person that runs me over at a pedestrian crossing however, won't get away with it that easily.

By the way, I. am. not. anthropomorphic. or. a. bleeding. heart. [Though I do like sniffing trees.] And it's okay if you're now thinking I'm simplistic, unrealistic and delusional. I already know that. 

Have a good day! :) X


Jean said...

1. Should maintaining our comfort....take precedent over that of animals? No, absolutely not. If it did, I would not be spending more on my animals than on myself, walking dogs in nasty weather, or getting up in the middle of the night to check on them. Seriously, though, it has been human action that has generally created the situation in which animals are endangered or in which animals attack humans. To slaughter the animals is like blaming the victim. Instead, we should look at what human actions are destroying the habitat of other species.
2. Do we discriminate when it comes to saving animals? Yes - I'm not sure if that is true of creatures on the endangered species list, as I know there are numerous insects that are on that list, but it is certainly true in the world of animal rescue.
3. Does it do any good to kill an animal that has attacked a human? Hmmm.... I live in a province where bear and cougar attacks get a lot of publicity and where the animal is sometimes subsequently shot. Attempts at live trapping and relocation tend not to work - the animal comes back to its territory. So I understand why sometimes they kill them, especially in the cities, because they have become a threat to the safety of children playing, for example. However, they wouldn't become a threat if we didn't destroy their habitat, leave our garbage out, etc. Again, the responsibility lies with humans to clean up their act so such killings will become a thing of the past. It begs the question: does the life of a human have more value than the life of a bear or cougar or shark?
And why don't we hunt down and execute humans who kill other humans? (I live in a country where there is no capital punishment of humans, only of bears and cougars).

Georgia, have you stopped farting yet? And did whatever you ate in the bush cause you any discomfort?

What Remains Now said...

This drives me crazy. I don't understand why we kill animals who attack humans. I'm sure there might be a case where it is appropriate, but I can't think of one. It is my opinion that the fault, in our modern world, always comes back to human choices. I also feel this way about domestic animals. I never see a serious discussion or concern about why the dog bit, just that it did and the dog must be destroyed. We are a selfish species. I'm going back to my blog and write about crafts :).

June said...

I agree with you on all counts, and I too want to know if Georgia has stopped . . . erm . . . passing gas.

I also want to know why people repeatedly build homes where said homes will, in the foreseeable future, be washed away by floods, burned by wildfires, blown away by hurricanes, etc.

Kolchak Puggle said...

OK, let's start with SHARKS SCARE THE WOOF OUT OF ME. Even little sharks. One of my exes was a marine biologist and he had these itty tiny little sharks that gave me nightmares, but geeze, even then I didn't wish them any ill will. In fact, I'm intrigued and captivated by their repulsiveness. Marketing is important and sharks just need a new publicist. I think, in a way, Discovery channel helped spur my love of the ugly little tooth monsters. It's almost SHARK WEEK!

georgia little pea said...

Jean - I think the responsibility lies with us too, and how we [mis]manage the planet. 6 billion+ humans, with some animals numbering only in their 1000s, and we still have right of way.

There are all sorts of animals and plants on the endangered and protected list. I think the cuties get the most publicity and support though [at least from the public].

Lori - I can't wait to get back to blogging about Georgia's butt squeezes. Why oh why did I ever start this???

June - I wonder about that too. Stupidity maybe?

Kol - You were NOT so scared of the itty bitty sharks. Bwah haha!!!


YES! Georgia has stopped farting, praise The Person In Charge! :D

Jan said...

Great information on sharks. The book and movie "Jaws" sent a lot of idiots out killing sharks just for revenge on a fictional creature. But humans are still counted at the top of the food chain. I don't know why.

Declan said...

I think we're pretty much with you! Georgia - WHY didn't you enter my Olympic Farting. You really missed a chance there girl! Deccy x

H and Flo said...

Okay. You're going to have to forgive me here. I know you posed some really good and thought-provoking questions there and I am intentionally not giving them too much head space right now - it's not because I don't care but (1) I've had a headful of snot for a few days and (2) I've put my mum on a plane back to Scotland BUT I did want to say that laughed like a drain when I read your google search term "are cute animals better protected than dangerous ugly ones?" That's gold... as they say here. :)

georgia little pea said...

No worries mate! ;) if I saw a post with these many words, I'd probably get migraine. It was just cathartic for me to get them out. Thanks for reading! Glad you had a giggle. Hope you feel better soon X

Rose ~ from Oz said...

Gosh Typist, I've read, I've pondered, I've mulled, now I've got a 'cluster' headache - and I'm full of snot too (seriously) - (hack, cough) and now Jana wants a leg rub before I drag myself off to bed. :(

georgia little pea said...

OMG Rose! This is the 1st time I've ever made posts that gave people headaches. I'm so proud of myself! No more excuses for you though. You WILL eventually share your thoughts, RIGHT? I'll be patient ;) X

Kristine said...

Great post, truly! I've always wanted to go whale watching but have yet to drive to a place where it is worthwhile. There are tours that leave from my city but I hear that it's pretty rare to see anything that close to Halifax. I need to drive up to Cape Breton one of these days and get out there.

To answer your questions:

1. No - we are the infiltrators, not the other way around. We need to learn how to live safely with wildlife.
2. Yes - see my community's completely disregard of cats, as an example. :-P
3. It depends - unfortunately, if an animal has become so accustomed to living with people that it is a danger to society, and itself, this seems to be the only solution. Perhaps if there were more sanctuaries this necessity could be eliminated? It's a tough choice and one I don't think most communities take seriously enough.

Now for my question: how have you lived in Australia so long and not spent the majority of your time in the hospital? It seems like everything in your country (animals, rocks, trees, bugs) is potentially deadly. I don't know how anyone survives! I bet even your squirrels are poisonous!

Pamela said...

Wow, so many good questions. And they bring up even more for me. And expose a few hypocrisies.

For instance, I understand that we are more likely to protect the cute and useful. Unless, of course, they taste good. Like the 150 million beef cattle that are slaughtered every year.

And I also recognize that it's human (and very Western) to be horrified that Asians slaughter sharks for their fins while ignoring the chickens, turkeys, and cattle we raise and kill in huge feedlots that end up poisoning our fruits and vegetables (the US has a big problem with e Coli from livestock feed lots contaminating our food).

And I'm the biggest hypocrite of all because I know all these things and still occasionally eat meat. albeit guiltily.

I'm happy to take my chance with the sharks. They were here long before I was and are more suited to the ocean than I am.

Although after reading one of your links, I'll make sure I only listen to Big Balls several miles in from the shore. :)

Thanks for making me think and learn. However, if my husband gets irritated by the dinner table conversation, I'll send him your way to kvetch.

Pamela said...

Oooh, you got me so riled up I almost forgot to thank you for the lovely whale pictures. Yes, I know we couldn't see much of the whale in your shots but my imagination filled in the gaps. :)

Of course, I'd be very happy to see a large shark someday too. The sharks in our favorite beaches are about 2 feet long.

Leslie said...

When you ask "How on earth did a top predator of the ocean become an endangered species requiring protection?" the answer is - they are not the top predator of the world. Unfortunately, that honor goes to us.

Rose ~ from Oz said...

(Hack cough) the pressure, the pressure of a response........ ;)

georgia little pea said...

Kristine - BWAH haha!!! that is a great question and I feel a post coming!

Pamela - Good points. I don't have a problem with eating any kind of meat, I think some of it is just cultural bias. I remember seeing horse heads hanging in a butchery in France and my eyes just popped. And no one will ever convince me that eating slimy snails are cool ;)

Like you, it's just the way animals are husbanded or slaughtered that I question. I actually laud people who go out and hunt/fish or farm their own animals for food to put on the table. I think they probably have a much greater appreciation for the meat than those of us who pick them up neatly glad wrapped.

Re: shark finning. If the whole shark was captured and used, it would be less of an issue with me. (Within sustainable limits.) Unfortunately, I understand most of them have their fins removed and are chucked back into the ocean to die a slow death. That is not only an unnecessarily cruel method of harvesting food, it's a ridiculous waste. Wild or farmed, for me, it all comes down to HOW we can humanely manage and dispatch these animals that keep us fed.

And that is my 5 minutes on the soap box today!

Are you an ACDC fan then? Who would have thought... ;) and what on earth does "your way to kvetch" mean?

Leslie - you're right!

Kirsten (peacefuldog) said...

I think about these things all the time. So glad you've articulated your thought on all counts so well, so I don't have to--because I'm with you all the way!

The thing about how we care more about charismatic megafauna than other equally deserving, but less physically appealing species...that's in part why we conservation biologists often prioritize conservation of "umbrella species," whose protection will also spell protecting for a host of less well-known and loved creatures. And I don't know about the Australian equivalent, but it's why the critical habitat provisions of the U.S. Endangered Species Act are so darned important.

Keep up the good work.

georgia little pea said...

Thanks Kirsten! I didn't know you were a conservation biologist! I only learnt about "umbrella species" conservation when I read the article I linked in the post. It's a great idea, though sad that we have to resort to it.

chandra said...

It's past my bedtime so I'm going to have to read this post tomorrow but I just had to say ...

"You're going to need a bigger boat."

Possibly the best movie lines ever.

-c at ddy.

georgia little pea said...

HAHAHA!!! That was good, C! X

Pamela said...

Back with a little gift to thank you for your thought-provoking post. One of the sailing blogs I follow posted this about whale sightings: You should click the link to their story about helping to cut a whale free from a fishing net.

Anyway, familiarity breeds respect. One of the reasons I want to go sailing. And I hope to encounter sharks as well as whales and dolphins. :)

"kvetch" is Yiddish for complaining. So if my husband gets tired of me jabbering about the conservation issues you've gotten me thinking about, I'll send him to Sydney to complain to you in person. :)

Now I bet you're really glad you blog with that bag over your head. :)

georgia little pea said...

Thanks for the link Pamela. I am in sore need of some lifting animal stories this week. Yes, I'm very glad for the brown bad LOL X

chandra said...

Congratulations on the best blog post title of the year ... I fully expect you will top it by the end of 2012.

And what a gorgeous day for whale watching!

No ... unless the animal is on a murderous rampage.
And, NO ... please GLP, no!

Thanks for the shark articles. My dad is a surfer who will walk down the beach to get away from the pack and often spends 8 hours in the water. Within the last five years, a man training for a triathlon with a group of other swimmers was killed by a shark about three miles south of my dad's surf spot. He's retired so if there's surf he will go out every single day. Recently, he said he wants no talk of shark attack stories around his house so I know he thinks/worries about it but it's not going to stop him from doing what he loves, which wouldn't exist if Mother Nature, her oceans and and the animals in them weren't all that they are.

-c at ddy.

georgia little pea said...

Chandra, I can understand your dad's position. If it's something he loves doing, how can anyone stop him? The ocean is the sharks' home and the best we can do is learn about them, respect their ways and do our best to avoid them. Stay safe!

BTW, thanks for commenting and sorry I just published a new post. Keep up girl!!! LOL X

Greyhounds CAN Sit said...

Sorry, typist, I've been busy with tradesmen, greyhounds and getting mentally stressed about not being able to decide on paint colours for the house interior (FFS, that's just SO important!) and am just catching up on your omphaloskepsis posts.

Hells bells (I am a huge ACDC fan), you don't pull any punches. I don't have anything constructive to add. I'd just like to say 'bravo', great posts which have attracted some equally thought provoking comments.

So glad GLP has stopped farting:)

georgia little pea said...


Omphaloskepsis is contemplation of one's navel as an aid to meditation.[1]
The word comes from Greek omphalos (navel) + skepsis (act of looking, examination). Similar words are "omphaloskeptic" (one who engages in the practice) and "omphaloskeptical" (related to contemplation of one's navel).

Sorry. I had to Wikipedia that. Your vocab is scary powerful! ;) No worries. Paint colour is important. When all else fails, use terracotta.