Humpback Whales are Ocean Heroes

August 12, 2016

Whale watching is one of Maui's most popular activities and for good reason! Humpback Whales are our beloved seasonal visitors. We love to watch these beautiful animals who perform incredibly acrobatic moves despite their large size. We are constantly in awe of their grace and sheer size. Their playful behaviors captivate all audiences. They are sacred in Hawaiian culture and are considered Aumakua or ancestral guardian. Now we can add something else amazing about the Humpback Whales and that is that they can be altruistic. A new study has found that there have been over 100 sightings of Humpback Whales attempting to thwart Killer Whale attacks on other animals. The study has analyzed different reports and data and compared it with known information.

Adult Humpback whales are believed to have no significant natural predators as reports of predation are quite rare. However, it has been reported that Killer Whales have attacked Humpback Whales specifically calves and juveniles. Studies have gone in depth analyzing the interactions between Humpback Whales and Killer Whales honing in on specific behaviors. Some believe that the threat of attacks from Killer Whales may influence their migration patterns. More specifically not why they migrate but how they migrate. It has been found that Humpback Cow/Calf pairs choose to migrate through longer more inshore routes. The threat of predation should cause Humpbacks to exhibit anti predator behaviors which they do in the form of defense however, we have see them seemingly swimming to the rescue. Through happenstance and research, the Humpback Whales have been spotted interfering in Killer Whale attacks on other animals.

The question as to why Humpbacks would approach attacking Killer Whales is clearly confusing. If Killer Whales are known to harass Humpback Whales, why would they go toward the incidence? To the knowledge of researchers and scientists, Humpback Whales are the only cetacean to purposefully approach attacking Killer Whales. We cannot be quite certain why they do this but we would like to imagine it is a showing of selflessness. However, Researchers have purported a few different options, one of which is that perhaps Humpback Whales are the accidental hero and that the motivation for interfering is that they believe, from far away, that another Humpback is being attacked. Whatever the actual motivation, what is clear is that Humpback Whales have been saving other marine life and performing good deeds. It also proves that there is still much to learn from studying the behaviors of these large sweet cetaceans.

Whale season in Hawaii starts in November and stretches until about May. The Humpback Whale return to Hawaii each year to breed, nurse, and calve their young. During this time you will have a chance to see Humpback Whales up close playing in their pods and Cow/Calf duos. We offer  two hour whale watch cruises on stable boats and 360 degree views! Next time you find yourself on Maui during whale season be sure to book a tour with us to see these gentle giants.

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