Belugas Make Friends Like People Do
A recent study about beluga whales has revealed that belugas are more like people than many of us might believe — especially in the way we make friends. While this study offers us a better understanding of their fascinatingly complex societies, lives, and relationships in the wild, it also adds to the growing body of evidence showing just how harmful captivity is for them.
Conventional scientific thinking tends to assume that groups of cetaceans are composed of related family members. This holds true for species like orcas and pilot whales, who spend much of their lives in close-knit family groups. However, belugas are proving these conceptions as being overly simplistic, opening up intriguing insights into their inner worlds.
The study found that beluga whales do hang out with family — however, they can also spend time with entirely unrelated whales. Researchers found the social groups they form vary widely, from small ones consisting of two to ten individuals to larger ones made up of thousands of belugas. Dynamics within these groups can also vary from being only male or female, to groups of belugas who are around the same age, and they also range in length — some of their relationships are fleeting, while others last for years.
An abundance of scientific evidence has accumulated over the last 50 years which clearly demonstrates the sophistication of dolphin and whale cultures. However, this information has yet to permeate the collective consciousness of people in the United States, which allows for the cetaceans’ ongoing abuse for entertainment and research.
The Georgia Aquarium, for example, endlessly breeds belugas in order to fill its woefully inadequate, and entirely indoor, tanks. Captive situations like this prevent belugas from choosing with whom to spend their time, as they are shipped around to different facilities or housed with whales not of their own choosing, who they may or may not be compatible with. In many cases, captivity prevents beluga friendships from forming.
Belugas deserve a life of wild freedom, where they have the ability to choose their friends and mates on their own terms. Take action for belugas, and other whales and dolphins here.
Donate to support our efforts to free them here.