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impending shark food
August 20, 2008 3:31 PM   Subscribe

"Why the fuss? Well, Colin's a baby whale..." Oh no. They named the doomed little thing ('little' meaning about the size of a large car). Mal Holland's report from the Daily Telegraph gives a very illuminating rundown of the nervous breakdown that "Sydney's booming whale watching industry" is experiencing right now...

For those too lazy to click on the link, the shorthand version of this story is a baby whale's been found off the shores of Sydney Australia thinking that a yacht was its mum. Colin, as some have now taken to calling him, was found suckling on the yacht. The guy who owns the yacht was quoted as saying it sounded like a vacuum cleaner attached to the hull of his ship.

They tried coaxing the little guy out into the open sea, but he appears to feel more secure near the shore. It's theorized that his mother has abandoned him, but no one knows why. Some people are demanding something be done to save the animal, but others are saying this is just part of the circle of life. Zoos won't take the whale into captivity cuz no one knows how to nurse a whale calf for eleven months. A scientist tried to bolster an interest in creating an artificial mammary gland for the guy, but it'd take too long and cost too much. The odds of finding a surrogate whale who will take him in are slim to none, so essentially whale watchers are currently watching a two week old calf starve to death, helpless to do anything.

Does humanity have a responsibility to save an orphaned baby whale, or is our duty to let nature take its course? And why do we anthorpomophize starving baby whales?
posted by ZachsMind (78 comments total)

 
Is our duty to let nature take its course?

I don't know, but if it was, we should ban medicine.

And why do we anthorpomophize starving baby whales?

Pehaps it's not so much a matter of anthropomorphization as it is merely compassion.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:39 PM on August 20, 2008 [12 favorites]


Does humanity have a responsibility to save an orphaned baby whale, or is our duty to let nature take its course?

Whales worldwide would get a grim chuckle indeed at the notion of a human suggestion of humanity "letting nature take its course", since we've utterly failed to allow nature to take its course with whales for so long that many species are now facing likely extinction. Well, they would if whales had any capacity for gallows humor, anyway.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 3:46 PM on August 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


Also, the first person to mention "whale steaks" loses one (1) internet.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:52 PM on August 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


I like the way this post berates me on multiple levels.
posted by Artw at 3:52 PM on August 20, 2008 [4 favorites]


Are we not part of nature?
posted by BeerFilter at 3:57 PM on August 20, 2008


I wouldn't want to live in a world where orphaned, endangered baby whales are ignored. I want to live in a world where us silly humans do silly things that make us all smile in silly ways.

At the same time, it sure would suck if one of us silly humans gets hurt trying to save the silly whale. I would think it most un-silly to have to explain in un-silly terms to this person's un-silly parents how their un-silly child died in decidedly silly circumstances.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:59 PM on August 20, 2008


That said, there is precedent for saving a silly whale -- meet Springer.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:01 PM on August 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't care anymore since the bastards let Flower die.
posted by The Bellman at 4:03 PM on August 20, 2008


historically, and well into the 1970's, the u.s. military used these animals for target practice. today, the navies of the world, including the u.s. and australia continue to bombard whales and dolphins with sonar. of course, we don't see these things happen, so they stay out of our frame of reference. anyone would feel compassion, shown the plight of this baby whale, but keep in mind the ongoing damage we are doing on a daily basis. 500 tons of australian "shark product" in 13 months?
by the way, i think this animal is not "suckling on the yacht", which is all sort of cute and stupid at the same time but actually trying to get some sustenance from the marine slime that covers any boat hull. considering that the hull would be coated with lead or copper base antifouling paint, it's gonna die anyway.
posted by kitchenrat at 4:05 PM on August 20, 2008


Fail whale :(
posted by Foci for Analysis at 4:06 PM on August 20, 2008


Do we even know what whale milk contains? How would we teach the baby how to Be A Whale? Would a saved whale be accepted by other, "wild" whales?

In spite of this, and in spite of the huge engineering challenges, I'd like to see us try; it likely won't work, and near the end we'd have to "knock it on the head" as the good Dr Silberbauer opined, but at least we will have tried.

If a kitten, or a puppy, or a baby elephant, or a baby dolphin showed up on your doorstep (that's an unusual doorstep), who would let them starve?
posted by 5MeoCMP at 4:07 PM on August 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


I wish they hadn't chosen my real name for a doomed baby, though
posted by 5MeoCMP at 4:10 PM on August 20, 2008


On the Courier Mail website, some twat is complaining that we shouldn't worry about this because "WILD DOGS ARE EATING CHILDREN".

You might have more golds, America, but it turns out we've got just as many retards!
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:11 PM on August 20, 2008 [5 favorites]


"WILD DOGS ARE EATING CHILDREN".

Crikey! The Dingo Ate My Baby!
posted by ericb at 4:14 PM on August 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


As the article pointed out, if this were a baby shark near the shore looking for its mama, the public would have a remarkably different reaction to it.
posted by ZachsMind at 4:17 PM on August 20, 2008


The flag was both for the weak post and the gyobbery in the more inside part.
posted by Wolfdog at 4:18 PM on August 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


All that most maddens and torments; all that stirs up the lees of things; all truth with malice in it; all that cracks the sinews and cakes the brain; all the subtle demonisms of life and thought; all evil, to crazy Ahab, were visibly personified, and made practically assailable in Colin. He piled upon the whale's white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down; and then, as if his chest had been a mortar, he burst his hot heart's shell upon it.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:19 PM on August 20, 2008 [9 favorites]


As the article pointed out, if this were a baby shark near the shore looking for its mama, the public would have a remarkably different reaction to it.

Thats's, like, REALLY profound and stuff. Do you have a philosophy degree?
posted by Artw at 4:22 PM on August 20, 2008


As the article pointed out, if this were a baby shark near the shore looking for its mama, the public would have a remarkably different reaction to it.

My reaction would, yes, be quite different. I'd be a bit surprised, since baby sharks aren't normally raised by their mothers. Watching a baby shark attempt to suckle on anything would almost certainly be a story worth following, since every fish about which I've ever read has lacked mammaries.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 4:24 PM on August 20, 2008 [7 favorites]


ArtW: "Do you have a philosophy degree?"

No. Do you have a sarcasm degree?
posted by ZachsMind at 4:26 PM on August 20, 2008


"Whale" is a funny name anyway.

I'd've called 'em chazwozzers.
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:27 PM on August 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


He should have a sarcasm degree, he's apparently quite good at it. I'd take classes.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 4:29 PM on August 20, 2008


Why don't they just take the mommy boat back out to sea?

Or, like, wean the thing. How hard can it be to swim Colin through some krill?
posted by Sys Rq at 4:45 PM on August 20, 2008


The baby whale's less than a month old. If it were possible to wean him at this point I'm sure they'd try, but he's too young to start eating "grownup food."
posted by ZachsMind at 4:55 PM on August 20, 2008


It would be nice to try to feed the thing. But even if feeding was possible, there's also all the other stuff required to produce a healthy well-adjusted adult whale; socialization, language (Whales speak Welsh, right?), soccer or piano lessons?, etc. They don't mature in just 90 days, either.

If they did, it would certainly help keep this story in the news, which of course would give us one more mostly irrelevent news story that keeps us from asking about news that actually, y'know, matters, like what starlet flashed what while exiting (choose one: a limo, a relationship, rehab).
posted by Artful Codger at 5:02 PM on August 20, 2008


Solon and Thanks: "He should have a sarcasm degree, he's apparently quite good at it. I'd take classes."

Oh absolutely. He serves the best sarcasm ever in the history of anything, but sarcasm degrees are over-rated. At best you can't get anything more than a low-level management job at Starbucks. Whereas, an Acknowledging The Suckiness In Others Degree is most coveted right now in the workfield. Many job opportunities, especially in the upper management positions for oil & gas companies.
posted by ZachsMind at 5:03 PM on August 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


This isn't a question of whether we should 'let nature take its course'. We don't have the capacity to change its course. Should we let an 90 year old with multiple organ failure die? Well, yes, because we don't have the ability to stop it. Just as we don't have the ability to save this whale.
posted by twirlypen at 5:03 PM on August 20, 2008


Tsk. That's trying WAY too hard.
posted by Artw at 5:08 PM on August 20, 2008


every fish about which I've ever read has lacked mammaries.

And yet, some sharks have a placenta.
posted by cephalopodcast at 5:10 PM on August 20, 2008


Do we even know what whale milk contains?

It's milk. It's much higher in fat than human or cow milk, with a much thicker consistency (so it doesn't dilute in water, ain't evolution grand?)

Read about it here.

But you're right, because "just milk" means it also contains -- like all mother's milk -- antibodies to whale-specific diseases, and whale-specific proteins.

The calf is doomed, make no mistake.

And a lot of human babies are starving to death tonight too. Ones we could save.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:11 PM on August 20, 2008


Being as we have almost zero chance of raising such a young whale and properly introducing it to the wild successfully, the only real and logistically viable option is to raise it in captivity.

And what sort of life is that for a whale? yes, it'll be alive, but.. well. It'd be in a tank. Sorry. No resolution here, it's a bit of a catch 88*.


*4 times the size cos whales are 'normous, innit.
posted by Brockles at 5:11 PM on August 20, 2008 [4 favorites]


Yeah, I wish the same media attention went to the stuff that screws with dozens or hundreds of whales. Let's get station-to-station coverage of federal agency hearings, no? (If only government agency staff were this charismatic!)
posted by salvia at 5:16 PM on August 20, 2008


Or, like, wean the thing. How hard can it be to swim Colin through some krill?

Even if he could manage without the milk, the nearest krill to Australia are down near the Antarctic, thousands of kilometres to the south.
posted by zamboni at 5:18 PM on August 20, 2008


Also, the first person to mention "whale steaks" loses one (1) internet.

If I weren't connecting to mefi with a serial cable, I'd totally start yammering on about "whale steaksœ╜¿¼Zih P,~╞órtÏÒ◊

[NO CARRIER]
posted by stavrogin at 5:20 PM on August 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


Colin? Had someone been watching 'Have I Got News For You'

ROUND THREE - ODD ONE OUT:
Paul - Roget's Thesaurus; the new British Rail timetable; Ian Hislop; Colin the Whale
(the timetable, as all the others have no appendix)
posted by tellurian at 5:21 PM on August 20, 2008


Its actually physically painful for me to admit this, but I think the best thing here might be to euthanise the poor thing. Humans know of no way to feed it, and it would probably suffer greatly in the time it took humans to figure something out.

Try to bond it with a nursing mother in captivity, perhaps, but if that fails euthanasia seems more humane than letting it starve to death.

Also, fourcheesemac has a good point above: how many human babies could be saved with the money and resources spent on saving one whale?
posted by anastasiav at 5:27 PM on August 20, 2008


I think I'm with ZachsMind on this. I'm not sure where the post berates, and the situation poses a lot of interesting dilemmas.

Why should we care? Humpbacks are already rather rare, only 80,000 left. And were once pretty close to extinction, unlike human babies.

This is very sad. But it seems highly unlikely we can do anything. And who the hell is the We we're talking about here? Our species? The Australians? Fellow mammals? Earthlings? What the hell are the dolphins doing about this? Or the Magpies.

I feel in some ways that the most appropriate thing to do is look away. Which of course even I'm not doing as this very comment proves.
posted by Toekneesan at 5:36 PM on August 20, 2008


Its actually physically painful for me to admit this, but I think the best thing here might be to euthanise the poor thing. Humans know of no way to feed it, and it would probably suffer greatly in the time it took humans to figure something out.

Yeah, I'm kinda leaning towards this too, unfortunately. Poor little Colin. Bawwwww :'(
posted by turgid dahlia at 6:00 PM on August 20, 2008


Yeah, I'm not sure anything can be done. But I'm glad some people are trying anyway.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 6:06 PM on August 20, 2008


Maybe the Japanese could loan some of their science?
posted by Pyry at 6:18 PM on August 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


"And a lot of human babies are starving to death tonight too. Ones we could save."

Next time, I'm going to start a betting pool on the time between the post was made and when this type of comment hits.
posted by Liosliath at 6:24 PM on August 20, 2008


Feel-good post of the day! Baby whales! Hearts, rainbows, unicorns!

Oh dear god!

(Fo some reason this reminds me, also, of the Douglas Adams whale.)
posted by mwhybark at 6:31 PM on August 20, 2008


On viewing that clip in entirety, it's quite clear why I am reminded.
posted by mwhybark at 6:36 PM on August 20, 2008


Sorry if it's been said upthread, but this is one of those 'if not for internet/modern communications you'd have never heard of this' stories. So, uh, yeah.
posted by fixedgear at 6:37 PM on August 20, 2008


They should just capture it and cryogenically freeze it, and then thaw it when they've figured out how to save it.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 7:05 PM on August 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


They should just capture it and cryogenically freeze it, and then thaw it when they've figured out how to save it.

Like Ted Williams' head!
posted by fixedgear at 7:14 PM on August 20, 2008


I'm just waiting for Spock to show up and utter a colorful metaphor (since he did so much LDS in the 60s) and scoop up that baby whale.
posted by frecklefaerie at 8:54 PM on August 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


They should just capture it and cryogenically freeze it, and then thaw it when they've figured out how to save it.

Gonna need a bigger boat icebox.
posted by turgid dahlia at 8:57 PM on August 20, 2008


I'm just waiting for Spock to show up and utter a colorful metaphor (since he did so much LDS in the 60s) and scoop up that baby whale.

I had always suspected that literary devices were sexually transmitted, but I never imagined that the Mormons were behind it. What else are they hiding beneath that secret underwear and gentle, white bread facade?
posted by stavrogin at 9:58 PM on August 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


I think the best thing here might be to euthanise the poor thing

How do you suggest they do that?

My guess is that a couple sharks or orcas are going to come along and make this a moot point very shortly.
posted by fshgrl at 10:24 PM on August 20, 2008


And a lot of human babies are starving to death tonight too. Ones we could save.

Oh, look! The Gold Medal winner in Non Sequitor Not Related To Anything in The Post designed to tug at the heartstrings and derail a perfectly good discussion about human/animal relations and ethics! HOORAY!

I kind of like the *idea* of a whale trying to nurse from a yacht, it's a cute image. I do feel rather sad for the actual whale, seeing as all of the options available at this point are sub-optimal. I do hope that somehow, he can be helped in some manner - whether it be saved somehow and reared by humans to be some kind of "pet" whale in a weird existence, but an existence nonetheless, or euthanized so that the "little" bugger doesn't have to endure a painful death from starvation.

(mwhybark: I had also been thinking of the Douglas Adams whale. And the bowl of petunias. Oh no, not again.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:33 PM on August 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Tsk. That's trying WAY too hard.

Personally, I would've gone with something like "Oh yeah? Well, the Jerk Store called, and they're running out of you."
posted by P.o.B. at 2:57 AM on August 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


I hope fervently that the appropriate authorities put this animal down instead of letting it starve to death.
posted by agregoli at 6:21 AM on August 21, 2008


Can't we bring in the Japanese, all that whaling 'scientific research' they've been doing for years, they must be real experts by now...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 6:36 AM on August 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


Whew. The latest news reports say they're going to euthanize it.
posted by agregoli at 6:42 AM on August 21, 2008


I find the idea of a starving baby whale trying to suckle on a yacht to be just too unspeakably sad.
posted by quin at 7:49 AM on August 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Whew. The latest news reports say they're going to euthanize it.

Yep.

Yacht-suckling baby whale faces mercy killing -- "Australian officials insist ailing mammal's condition warrants action."
posted by ericb at 8:35 AM on August 21, 2008


Probably for the best.

...awaits complaints that it's a watse of a bullet and the whale was going do die anyway and why do we care more about whales and kittens than cockroaches and centipedes blah blah blah...
posted by Artw at 8:39 AM on August 21, 2008


Oh good grief. Now they can't find it to euthanize it and the article I read ended with a woman crying and saying something about how if it was a starving human we would feed it. Why are people so willfully stupid?
posted by agregoli at 8:59 AM on August 21, 2008


I'm relieved they're going to put him down. If we have the chance to give him a quick death we should take it.

Oh good grief. Now they can't find it to euthanize it

Oh damn, hope they find the little guy.

At the very least his death will ensure* that some adorable baby sharks will make it one more day. (I have a soft spot for sharks.)

*Ensure? Insure? I always get those two mixed up even when I Google it.
posted by lysistrata at 9:11 AM on August 21, 2008


Thank goodness he's not going to suffer anymore. Poor Colin.
posted by bettafish at 10:01 AM on August 21, 2008


if they're gonna put it down, they might as well attach it to a really really really long fishing line & see if we can bring a giant squid up from the depths.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:48 AM on August 21, 2008


Well, now they can't find him.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:48 AM on August 21, 2008


Send in the ninja!
posted by Artw at 11:51 AM on August 21, 2008


Yup, we know. He's lost/gone/dead/whatever.
posted by agregoli at 11:57 AM on August 21, 2008


(From BitterOldPunk's link):

One effort came from Aboriginal whale whisperer Bunna Lawrie, who visited the calf Thursday afternoon. Adorned with feathers on his head and white paint markings on his face, Lawrie reached into the water to stroke Colin while singing a humming, tongue-rolling tune.

It is good to know the old ways won't be lost. Generations of whale whisperers are looking in from mythtime in approval.
posted by mwhybark at 12:37 PM on August 21, 2008


Yes, the old ways will live on in Colin.

But whale whispering? That's OK, I suppose, but nothing in comparison with what the Maoris can do.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:16 PM on August 21, 2008


Just saw the news - he's dead Jim. It's over.

And right to the end people were out in their boats at Pittwater, pleading and shaking their fists for something humane to be done - like letting the poor thing continue to starve.
posted by nudar at 3:40 PM on August 21, 2008


The decision to euthanase the whale was made after a meeting last night involving the national parks service and experts from Taronga Zoo and Sea World on the Gold Coast, and the welfare groups RSPCA and ORCCA. [...]

"Some people are very upset, and some were very aggressive. It's a bit harrowing personally.

"They've been calling me the worst names you can imagine ... [including] 'effing murderer' which is a bit hard to take - I've spent my life working with animals.

posted by UbuRoivas at 4:11 PM on August 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Baby Whales: The Pandas Of The Sea

It's a shame they had to do it, but I'm glad they did.
posted by turgid dahlia at 5:20 PM on August 21, 2008


"They've been calling me the worst names you can imagine ... [including] 'effing murderer' which is a bit hard to take - I've spent my life working with animals.

Oh for Pete's sake. People fucking flummox me. These are probably the same people who step over the homeless when they're on their way to their local goddamned sushi bar.
posted by lysistrata at 8:52 PM on August 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


Turns out Colin was actually a Colleen...
posted by Megami at 8:53 PM on August 21, 2008


How very Sydney.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:06 PM on August 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


The NPWS has asked the community for suggestions to erect a memorial at The Basin in honour of the whale.

This is the kind of thing that makes me blind with rage. How idiotic.
posted by agregoli at 6:51 AM on August 22, 2008


As the article pointed out, if this were a baby shark near the shore looking for its mama, the public would have a remarkably different reaction to it. ~ZM

That says more about the general ignorance that is the basis for most peoples understanding of sharks than anything else. Sadly there wont be any(thing) left in the oceans for our descendants to study due to our willful destruction.
posted by asok at 6:54 AM on August 22, 2008


actually, there's plenty of activism & activity for shark conservation down under, just to set the record straight.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:48 AM on August 22, 2008


Sadly there wont be any(thing) left in the oceans for our descendants to study due to our willful destruction.

That's a bit harsh... I'm sure there will be plenty of algae and a few jelly-fish.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 10:02 AM on August 22, 2008


I’m hoping for a gigantic, single celled amoeba that encompasses the entire ocean, myself.
posted by Artw at 10:04 AM on August 22, 2008


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