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Zoo Logic

Oct 19, 2023

Scientist and historian Dr. Danielle Clode returns to discuss her extraordinary 2002 book, Killers in Eden and the documentary that followed in 2004 that explored the unique cooperative relationship between a pod of orcas and their human whaling partners in a small coastal town in New South Wales. Building upon the historic relationship between the aboriginal Yuin people and the killer whale which are viewed as Yuin ancestors, beginning in the early 1800s, European whalers in the town of Eden spared the seasonally returning predators in favor of teaming with them to hunt migrating humpback, blue, and fin whales. Much like a pack of dogs, the orcas would roundup, wear down, and trap the passing massive baleen whales towards the waiting humans and their small boats in the bay. At night, the orcas would even swim towards the shore to slap their tail flukes and alert the whalers that prey was passing near. The improbable interspecies cooperation was based upon the "Law of the Tongue" in which humans would leave whale carcasses anchored in the bay so that the orcas could feed on the preferred baleen whale parts such as the lips and tongue. After a few days, the whalers would haul the rest of the whale to shore to harvest the blubber for whale oil. This unlikely cooperation lasted decades until the end of whaling in the early 20th century.

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