Saving Luna: The Incredible Story of a Whale-Human Relationship
By Katie Edwards (05/16/13 16:17:22)
Related animal: Whale

Saving Luna

Watching “Saving Luna” was incredibly moving for me. I had never heard the story before, and I think the film did a wonderful job of capturing Luna's spirit and his impact on the people around him. I can't imagine being able to interact so closely with an orca, let alone play with him and fearlessly put my hand into his mouth. His behavior was almost dog like—it was as if he had grown up not realizing that he was a whale or that there are certain expectations from humans of particular species. Comparing Luna to a domesticated dog may seem strange, but I mean it in the sense that the closeness of his relationship with humans was like that of a pet people would bring into their home and love unconditionally. He wasn't afraid of humans, and would immediately approach them with nothing but friendly intentions. I find it bizarre that he seemed to have such a demeanor all along, even before he became such a popular tourist destination. It was as if he was meant to be raised with humans. Perhaps he was filling the void of not being with his own pod, but I still find it remarkable that he would choose to remain with humans for years rather than attach himself to another orca family.

Despite being in the wild, Luna's upbringing was strongly influenced by human interaction and attention, which must've led to a lot of confusion and struggle for both Luna and his friends during the periods of “tough love” restrictions. I think it was cruel to go back and forth between giving Luna a lot of attention and then purposefully ignoring him. I understand that it would be difficult to hold your ground when faced with the decision to neglect an animal you'd grown so close to, but I feel as if the fickle nature of people's relationship with him only led to more heartbreak for everyone involved. While there was obvious danger of Luna being around so many boats and approaching people who did not ask to be approached, I think emotionally it was better for him to have human affection. It would be different if he had been ignored by people from his birth and didn't think of humans as his surrogate family, but since he went years believing people were his friends, I can only imagine how impossible it would be for him to stay away when people ignored him. It was the responsibility of the people to decide how to act around him, and I think they were inconsistent and therefore unfair.

It's difficult to decide what's in an animals best interest when there's really no way for them to explicitly communicate how they're feeling. We can make all the assumptions we want, but we're incapable of knowing exactly what the animals needs or desires. Luna certainly acted like he wanted to remain in contact with humans, but there's no saying what would have happened if the efforts to relocate him had succeeded. We don't know if he would've adapted or struggled. The whole situation was a big “what if,” and with so many people voicing their opinions about what would be best for Luna, it was impossible to come to a conclusion that would please everybody. Personally I think keeping Luna with humans was best for everyone's emotional health, but who knows what would've happened if he had been taken somewhere else or placed back with his family. When it comes to making decisions for other species, I find it hard to remove our own desires and biases and think strictly of the animal's interest.

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