A juvenile male beluga Hvaldimir, suspected of being part of the Russian military and known as the ‘spike whale’, stumbled upon the ball-throwing, fin-shaking cetacean after appearing in a Norwegian fjord, and millions of people After a captivating four-year journey southwards, Hvaldimir has recently accelerated its migration dramatically. He is now leaving Norway for Swedish waters, where he is showing signs of malnutrition and dehydration. He urgently needs our help.
sometimes have a significant impact, Cognition and behavior change. I believe this is happening now. It all started when this young beluga whale appeared in a fjord in the Norwegian town of Hammerfest, wearing a camera mount and a military harness with a tag engraved with the English letters “Equipment St. Petersburg.” This mysterious white animal’s harness was quickly removed by a local fisherman, who came to call him “Spikezilla”. No agency had reported the whale missing. But the inscription and previous reports of the Russian navy’s use of beluga whales in its military plans quickly got people thinking: Whales were either escaped, lost or released during Russian military campaigns.
His presumed Russian origin and the word meaning “whale” in Norwegian (whale), the local Norwegians named him Hvaldimir. And people now call him Valdi for short.
As a cognitive psychologist and marine mammal scientist, I have spent most of my life observing and studying the behavior, cognitive abilities, and communication of dolphins and whales. And from this observation of whale behavior, it is clear that valdi was excluded from his social group at an early age and cultured by norms peculiar to human interaction. This behavior puts young whales at risk. It is now our responsibility to protect him. An international team of scientists, veterinarians and other animal welfare and policy experts are spearheading these efforts, the nonprofit OneWhale, founded by Norwegian-based American filmmaker Regina Haug. It consists of I am a member of that organization’s advisory board.
OneWhale partnered with Hammerfest to build a 500-acre protected marine sanctuary for Valdi and other whales in captivity today. Despite Norway’s long history of whaling and being one of the three remaining commercial whaling nations in the world, Hammerfest approved the project almost unanimously on 23 March.
Much like humans, valdi are big-brained and very social animals. Beluga whales in the wild live in complex societies, where they form lasting relationships and cooperate in foraging, raising offspring, and other activities. They have social awareness, just like us. They use whistles and other sounds to communicate with each other. They also learn by observing, listening and imitating, according to anecdotal evidence and published scientific reports. In one case, a juvenile male beluga whale at the National Marine Mammal Foundation in California, living with a pod of dolphins and socially interacting with two female beluga whales, spontaneously made surprisingly human-like sounds. I started. And just like us, beluga whales learn social norms such as group vocal communication signals and behavioral patterns. In other words, they become culturally entrenched in maritime societies.
However, unlike wild beluga whales, valdi are perfectly accustomed to humans and can find themselves in dangerous situations. For the past four years, he’s been fishing just outside the circular nets of the industrial salmon farms that dot the Norwegian coastline. In doing so, this sociable and inquisitive whale has often attempted to engage workers and has frequently disrupted their affairs. Although the farm workers have been kind to him, they cannot take responsibility for his care and have frequently contacted Onewhale to evict him from the area.
Valdi can also be mischievous. He has been known to find ropes and wrap them around boat propellers to disable them. And one time he dismantled a farmer’s underwater pipes. This behavior may be the result of his past training, but such pranks have led to death threats. Mr. Hvaldi’s fascination with boats also turned out to be dangerous for him. He has been seriously injured by boat propellers, fishing hooks and other sharp objects. These dangers only increased as he reached Oslo, the Norwegian capital, and now Sweden. Sweden has 5 million more people than Norway and even more boat traffic. Valdi is a whale that has left its habitat and has lost its place. And he is utterly solitary, except for human interaction. He needs a safe place to live, and he deserves it.
But things have changed dramatically for Vardi in the last few weeks. He found that the waters of Sweden lacked the abundant fish he usually ate. Due to his lack of food and recent long distance travel, his weight has decreased significantly.
Things get even worse. Swedish fisheries officials warn that there is a shortage of fish in the area, although there are hopes of a near-term influx of mackerel. Ironically, even though beluga whales and other cetaceans live in water, they do not drink water, instead metabolizing all the water from the fish they eat. Therefore, if cetaceans go without food for an extended period of time, they risk dehydration. When there are no fish to eat, fish produce metabolic water by breaking down stored fat. When stored fat is depleted, muscle begins to break down, which can lead to more serious consequences.
It is still unclear why Vardi continues southward. From what is currently known, the seasonal movements and behavior of beluga whales are ultimately influenced by a combination of genetic, social and environmental factors. These mammals exhibit place fidelity, which means returning to the same place, and migration patterns thought to be culturally transmitted and inherited from their mother beluga whales. We don’t know anything about valdi breeding, or even if they were born in the wild.
Hvaldimir is still a boy, so he could live another 40 years or more. Permanently monitoring and controlling his interactions with the public and his salmon farms is impractical. Norwegian marine reserves provide a protected environment for Hvaldi to live with the dignity he deserves, while ensuring he receives care and enrichment from an experienced team of caregivers. Saving Valdi is OneWhale’s priority at the moment.
Hvaldi shows a strong tendency to rest or follow under catamarans. Given this tendency to chase boats, Onewhale would like to obtain its own catamaran or other boat to monitor and protect Hvaldimir. This vessel is essential and has multi-purpose capabilities. This will allow the OneWhale team to continuously monitor the whales, provide accommodation for the crew, provide refrigerated fish storage, and allow the team to feed the whales if needed, all We can provide a familiar and safe base. for Valdi.
We believe that with our knowledge comes deep responsibility. In this case, I feel a responsibility to pass on what we have learned about these amazing marine mammals beyond the scientific arena and to share this information widely through public scientific communications and political forums. What makes Valdi’s story important is that in such a rare instance in which we experience a personal encounter with an individual animal like him, not only their intelligence, curiosity and social awareness, but also their wild nature. Because it also reveals to us the intelligence, curiosity and social consciousness of the corresponding animal. Valdi’s clock is ticking. Without quick action, his story would not end well. Regardless of the details of when or who accustomed him to human companionship,, It is now our responsibility to protect him.
We are in the process of raising funds to purchase the ship. If you would like to join us in our efforts to protect Hvaldimir, OneWhale has more information.
This is an opinion and analysis article and the views expressed by the author are not necessarily those of the author. Scientific American.