Subject: Orcas & Military Intelligence

Phillip Colla (oceanlight@oceanlight.com)
Wed, 16 Jun 1999 09:54:20 -0700

>	I am curious as to how much the Government spends its time 
>researching the Orca whale? I have noticed in the past and seen for myself 
>the interesting social behaviors that this species of whale exhibits. For 
>example, an Orca whale will push a DEAD member of it's pod around for 
>hundreds of miles before ever giving up on it totally and allowing the
animal 
>to either rest opon the shore or to sink within the ocean's waves?  
>	I have heard of cases where an Orca will, actually, attack the killer 
>of a member of its pod.  Is this true, and if so, what sort of cases are you 
>aware of ?
>	If in fact the Government spends millions of dollars and countless  
>hours ( as I have heard it told ) studying the brilliance of this animal,
why 
>is it that they would take the chance at killing it through nuclear warhead 
>recovery and other military tacticals? 	( Dolphins & Seals are two of the 
>other species the Gov't. uses for this & other suicide missions ).
>
>P.S.     One final question please.
>Can the E.P.A. not put a STOP to these 
>tactics sought out by the Gov't. and if so, are they 
>doing anything about it to your knowledge?

It is tough to respond to your email, since these are controversial topics.

I am involved in research and observation of marine mammals. I
avoid publically voicing my opinion on sensitive conservation issues
for two reasons.  First, due to competing demands on my time, I cannot
stay current on what is happening on these issues and I thus do not have
the expertise to comment authoritatively about them.  Secondly, becoming
a vocal "conservationist" can undermine one's credibility as a researcher.
Perhaps it shouldn't be that way, but it is.

Your statements about orcas staying with and pushing a dead member
of its pod are rooted in fact.  Such behavior has been documented with
more than one odontocete species, and we (HWRF) and others documented a
somewhat
similar behavior when a humpback whale died during competitive group
activities
in Hawaii.  Personally, though, I think that "hundreds of miles" is unlikely.
I would need to see a description of this appear in the
scholarly literature before I would believe it. 

It is not surprising that an orca would attack an animal that had just
killed or injured a member of its own pod.  This is not necessarily altruism.
It could simply be self-defense since, from the orca's perspective, the
orca could be the killer's next target.  If someone had just attacked a person
next to you (not necessarily a member of your family), wouldn't you at
least consider taking action against the attacker to ensure your own safety?
It's something to consider.

While I have some ideas about your questions regarding the government,
tactical training of marine mammals, etc., I will refrain from answering
them directly.  If you are serious about obtaining answers to the
questions, you will have to contact various government entities yourself
anyway.  So consider:

   http://www.noaa.gov/    National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
   http://www.nmfs.gov/    National Marine Fisheries Service
   http://www.fws.gov/     US Fish and Wildlife Service

   
Best regards,

Phillip Colla
Research Associate: http://www.hwrf.org
Photographer: http://www.oceanlight.com