We are becoming increasingly aware of the massive intelligence of all cetaceans (the collective name for dolphins, whales and porpoises). Dolphins and whales live and love as we do, with complex family and social bonds.
What should not be forgotten is that there is currently no country exempt from animal harm, taking a closer look at our own lifestyle choices and farming practices in our own countries is also important for perspective…
“While hunting the pilot whale has helped the Faroese survive a harsh environment over countless generations, the very same poisons that threaten the whales now threaten the people eating them.
But there is no need to end the Faroese’ special relationship with the pilot whale, but simply redefine it: For these incredible animals can still provide for the Faroese through whale-watching, rather than as food, in a way that will help sustain both whales and the Faroese far into the future.”
– Sir David Attenborough: Broadcaster, London
Pilot whales live in family groups or pods which consist of females and their young, along with older animals. A typical pod will be almost 70% female and to avoid inbreeding they will only mate with males from other pods. Such female-led lifelong family groups are rarely seen in the animal kingdom and a characteristic pilot whales share with elephants, ourselves and other primates.
Pilot whales live in family groups throughout their lifetimes. Mothers have been documented carrying dead calves for days, strong evidence of their strong social bonds and their capacity to mourn for a lost family member. Juveniles cannot dive to great depths and they remain at the surface attended by older animals while the rest of the pod dives for food.
Research suggests that different pods have their own unique vocal repertoires called dialects. Scientists believe that they use these sounds to exchange information and to identify each other, reinforcing social bonds. It’s a kind of language, if you like. Scientific research also suggests that unique calls are passed from one generation to the next as a cultural legacy, a characteristic these whales share with sperm whales and orcas, as well as ourselves and some other primates.