In many animal societies, if a member of a group is gravely wounded or born with disabling deformities, that animal becomes an unsustainable burden on the others, and is often left behind at the mercy of predators, hunger and disease.
Not so with killer whales. They are among the few species in the world to look after members of their family who cannot look after themselves. Their patience and compassion for each other surpasses, perhaps, even that of humans
The most recent example of this extraordinary commitment to one another was revealed recently in the UK’s Daily Mail, which ran a story and photo essay of a disabled young male orca off the coast of South Africa. The disabled killer whale that is missing two fins is able to survive in the wild with the help of its family, who hunt food its food. The young killer whale has no dorsal fin or right-side pectoral fin, leaving it unable to hunt for itself.
These disfigurements make it impossible for the whale to hunt alongside his pod. Luckily for him, they are only too willing to hunt for their disabled pod mate.
Underwater photographer Rainer Schimpf came face to face with the pod while the members hunted in waters off Port Elizabeth in South Africa. He said: “Incapable of fast hunting and ambushing prey it has to be dependent on the pod which, one assumes, looks after it very well. It shows these mammals are not really just ruthless killing machines but they also have complex, caring social-structures in which they and care for their own disabled members.”
Of course, the more you learn about the intelligence, compassion and complex social bonds these amazing animals have developed over millions of years of evolution, the idea of keeping them locked up in tanks for human entertainment and profit becomes even more ludicrous.