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Saving Luna

What can science learn from one lonely killer whale?

Suzanne Chisholm and Michael Parfit
What should humans do when a wild animal tries to befriend us? It sounds like a fairy tale, but in 2001, in Nootka Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, it actually happened. A lone killer whale (__Orcinus orca__) nicknamed Luna was separated from his pod. Without the company of other whales, this highly social mammal sought out human contact.Luna's solitary presence and his efforts to connect across taxonomic boundaries left both scientists and policymakers baffled. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) -- the Canadian government agency that manages marine mammals -- decided that Luna should have no contact with humans.
__Photo: Roy and Sandy Bohn__
People were threatened with $100,000 fines for interacting with Luna. One woman who patted Luna on the nose was charged with "disturbing a whale" and was fined $100 under the fuzzy law. But what does science say about human encounters...
__Photo: Paul Laviolette__
__Photo: Suzanne Chisholm__

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