Whales try to rescue calf from hunting pod of orcas (VIDEO)

Whales try to rescue calf from hunting pod of orcas (VIDEO)Humans might not be the only creatures that care about the welfare of other animals.

Scientists are beginning to recognise a pattern in humpback whale behaviour around the world, a seemingly intentional effort to rescue animals that are being hunted by killer whales.

A particularly dramatic example of this behaviour, involving a pair of humpback whales attempting to save a gray whale calf from a hunting pod of orcas after it had become separated from its mother, was captured by BBC filmmakers.

Perhaps the most stunning aspect of this behaviour is that it's not just a few isolated incidents. Humpback whale rescue teams have been witnessed foiling killer whale hunts from Antarctica to the North Pacific. It's as if humpback whales everywhere are saying to killer whales: pick on someone your own size! It seems to be a global effort. 54 different observers reported 115 documented interactions between 1951 and 2012.

In 89 percent of the recorded incidents, the humpbacks seemed to intervene only as the killer whales began their hunt, or when they were already engaged in a hunt. It seems clear from the data that the humpback whales are choosing to interact with the orcas specifically to interrupt their hunts. Among the animals that have been observed being rescued by humpback whales were California sea lions, ocean sunfish, harbour seals, and gray whales.

So the question is: Why are humpback whales doing this?

There is a reason to believe that the behaviour isn't entirely selfless. Mature humpback whales are too large and too formidable to be hunted by orcas themselves, but their calves are vulnerable. Orcas have been witnessed hunting humpback whale calves in much the same way that they hunt gray whale calves. So, by proactively foiling orca hunts, perhaps the humpbacks are hoping to make them think twice about messing with their own calves.
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