Since I was a young child I have been fascinated by whales. From age 8 to 18 I lived in Timaru where whalers were among the first European settlers. I did a number of school projects on the Timaru whalers and their prey, and on family trips visits to the Canterbury museum in Christchurch it was the outdoor courtyard skeleton of the blue whale that always captured my attention. Ten years ago I managed to see whales in their natural surrounding at Kaikoura. Whales are awesome creatures.
Today the lead stories of the two midday NZ news TV channels covered the stranding of whales in Nelson’s Golden Bay. The story was naturally of interest to me, whale-o-phile that I am. The second news story on each bulletin was of street violence in Kiev and the immanence of civil war in the Ukraine. Both news stories have been on my mind all afternoon.
The Golden Bay whale stranding first hit the headlines yesterday evening when more than 100 volunteers walked for an hour up the beach to help re-float the stranded whales. The news images have been of people gently watering, massaging and guiding the whales. A vivid example of human kindness.
In contrast the images from Kiev have been of violence leaving dozens of people wounded from “hurled stones, Moltov cocktails tear gas, stun grenades, rubber bullets and water cannons.” (Telegraph)
Yesterday evening a small number of the beached whales had to be euthanised, bringing tears to the eyes of some helpers. However at great human expense and effort 50 of the whales were returned to the ocean last night. Unfortunately by first light this morning 48 of them had returned to the beach. It is reasonable to assume that whales have been stranding themselves for 60 million years. Perhaps human intervention in their strandings, while understandable, is a naive human interference in the natural life and death rhythms of the animal world?
Of greater concern to us must be that humans have become more preoccupied with the fate of animals (and plants, lakes, mountains and rivers), than with the violence that is a routine part of the lives of our brothers and sisters in so many parts of the world.