When Fisheries tried to lure Luna into a netted pen, people watched him push the boat into the pen instead.
On its surface, Luna’s story is about an impish lost killer whale and the people who cared deeply about his welfare, yet the deeper message it delivers is that we can – and maybe should – have an entirely different relationship with the social and intelligent animals that share our world.
He was a whale who showed us that he ‘got’ us, who found eye contact with us invaluable and refused the dead fish (along with some snacks and fruit) offered to him:
Was Luna fed by humans when he lived in Nootka Sound?
People sure tried to give him goodies. They threw him chocolate and oranges. Even vegetables. He spit out anything he couldn’t play with.
Fisherman would sometimes toss Luna dead fish from their fishing lines, and he’d carry them around, sticking out the side of his mouth like cigars. But he didn’t seem to eat them. He was wild, and he clearly preferred hunting for live fish.
That’s what made his efforts to make contact with us so unusual. It wasn’t for food, so why did he do it? The only answer that seems to make sense is that without his family around he was, in some way different but perhaps in some way the same as us, lonely. Somehow maybe he thought we could be friends. And a lot of people thought the same thing. The Whale
Groups and individuals clashed or coalesced in an effort to do the right thing for the lost young whale, and government officials tried their best to do what they thought was right as they weighed risks for everyone.
The more Luna was ignored the more he amused himself with boats and seaplanes or whatever else caught his attention, and by time the government decided to net him and transport him back to his home waters he seemed to think it was a game.
In the years since Luna came to live and play among the people in Nootka Sound, his whole clan – the Southern Resident orcas – has struggled to survive. Recently Crewser (L 92) disappeared, and the Center for Whale Research now reports that four-year-old Scarlet (J 50) is very thin and may not survive. Their situation is growing desperate.
We’re running out of time to help these precious whales, and if they abandon the region or go extinct they will take their culture with them, a culture that includes an interest in the humans that share their waterways.
The video below recounts Luna’s adventures, and was made by The Whale filmmakers prior to the final version. (25 minutes).
[hdnfactbox title=”More About Luna”]
September 19, 1999: Luna is first seen with his mother, Splash (L 67) only hours after being born and is given the number L 98.
In a highly unusual situation, Luna is then seen with Kiska (K 18) who had recently given birth to a stillborn, and for a period of weeks alternates between the two females, possibly nursed by both. It is unknown if this situation is related to his eventually becoming lost, since K pod and L pod don’t always forage together. (Center for Whale Research).
In 2001: Luna failed to return with his family and is thought to have died. A lone orca calf is discovered in Nootka Sound, and is identified as Luna, although this isn’t publicly announced.