Environmental issues that concern you
I'm a little on the fence about this. I've seen interspecies relationships on all sorts of levels. I've been followed around by turtles and rays and whales. I also have dog friends and cat friends and horse friends. My dogs have had horse friends, I've seen cats with bird friends, Jane Goodall is friends with chimps. I have made a point of getting out of the way of Humpbacks only to be followed to the point of almost being hearded. I've even had elk and marmots walk right up to me.There are a lot of examples where wild critters seek human company (our own Hawaiian Monk seal on Molokai is a great example). My feeling is that if a critter doesn't want your company, they're smart enough and saavy enough to let you know. Lastly, not all humans are evil. In fact, they're critters too. And the other critters know that.The OTHER side of this is that they sometimes trust us and we're not always trustworthy...our ability for thier ruin is as powerful as anything nature has to offer. Having said that, I've been around a lot of turtles (many who may have been raised in captivity and, subsequently, released) who see no problem with human critter contact. And others' who run. You know, I met with the owners/managers of the Maui Ocean Center about their critters. They went on and on about the care they took to bring Tiger sharks into the Center. Then they told us that when they got too big, they just released them. I asked if they took the care in releasing them that they did in capturing them. All I got was: "You know? That's a good question. Next". I guess what I'm trying to say is: are THEY better critters than this guy who tried to ride the wild turtle who let him? These are real questions.
At Ulua Beach today and was pleased to see a large turtle feeding. Another snorkler was circling with a camera and kept a respectful distance. Several others spotted the big guy and it was good to see that everyone just watched, kept their distance and didn't seem to disturb the turtle's feeding at all. No chasing and touching like the guy in the pics.
I'm not so sure the turtle in the photo had much choice than to let the guy ride him. This is inappropriate behavior toward any animal in the wild. Just because turtles happen to be passive doesn't mean they are comfortable being "ridden".
This is illegal behavior, and for good reason. Touching turtles is harassment, pure and simple. They also need space so they can surface and breathe. I still remember the incident a few years ago when a female dropped a whole clutch of eggs in the ocean after being traumatized by some idiot riding her.What is most disturbing to me about these photos is that the line indicates the person was trying SNUBA, which means he was on a commercial outing being supervised by a crew who knows the law and should have told him that was not acceptable ahead of time and stopped him immediately!
Point of reference...It is hard to see in these pictures, but in the originals sent to us you can see that it is actually a tag line attached to a float. This is more likely a fisherman.
Wendi's right, riding sea turtles is illegal here and all of our Maui turtle experts - who really love these animals and spend a great deal of time in the water studying them from a safe distance - tell us of the potential harm caused by riding (including the turtle having heart failure!). Local, schmocal, I don't care who you are, it's uncool behavior.BTW: Rest easy, Jonica, the Maui Ocean Center staff do love their tiger sharks and they take a great deal of care in returning them to the open ocean when it's time. The process takes hours (includes a Hawaiian blessing) and divers accompany the shark for a long time, making sure s/he's ok.
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