Animals > People (Part 1 In Ongoing Series)

I just wanted to share a story that made me happy.  I know I’m a negative asshole and I sure do like posting negative rants and I sure as hell ain’t gonna stop but every now and then you. need a palate cleanser.
Something with a true, good heart.  And this is it.
To wit:
So because I’m a liberal snowflake I was listening to NPR’s Fresh Air podcast and Terry Gross was interviewing Paul Nicklen (http://www.paulnicklen.com/).  He’s an arctic wildlife photographer and he has shot underwater with all kinds of dangerous animals but he had never really gotten shots with Leopard Seals (http://www.antarctica.gov.au/about-antarctica/wildlife/animals/seals-and-sea-lions/leopard-seals).  The word “seal” always evoked images of cute barking seals balancing beach balls on their noses.  A Leopard Seal might play with a ball but it also might drag you into the ocean.  It can be 13 feet long and over 1100 pounds.  Their mouths are full of sharp teeth and they are twice as big as a lion’s.  So Nicklen asked the local about their dangerous rep and the guy said that they’re not so much dangerous as they are complicated.  He told Nicklen to come down and he would find some Leopard Seals for him to shoot.  Fast cut to Nicklen and the local in a 12 foot boat on the ocean and a female seal swims up to the boat.  She’s longer than their boat; And weighs half a ton.  Nicklen pauses and suggests they push the dive shoot to tomorrow.  The local emphatically says no and orders Nicklen into the water.  So he gets ready and jumps in.
As soon as he breaks the surface, the seal, with a struggling penguin in her mouth, notices Nicklen and promptly drops the penguin and makes a beeline to him.  I didn’t know this either but apparently things appear 35% bigger under the water to the human eye than they do from the outside looking in so this thing that already looked humongous looks even humongous-er.  She stops in front of him and Nicklen stays still – he’s shot with dangerous sea life and he knows to let them take the lead.
She starts to do a bunch of threat displays.  Apparently Leopard Seals don’t throw down physically with each other when they fight.  As I understand it, they do these elaborate balletic sequences and whoever gets scared away first loses.  As a result, leopard seals have smooth skin (while their rough and tumble walrus cousins who throw down old school have the battle scars to prove it).  So she goes through her choreography and eventually stops.  Nicklen believes she decided this strange little being in her territory isn’t really much of a threat.
So this apex predator encountered a being she didn’t know in HER territory and after showing him she’s not to be taken lightly, she doesn’t just swim away and ignore him.  She grabs a live penguin and tries to give it to him to eat!  He obviously can’t eat it so she tries a couple more live penguins (I do feel bad for the penguins in this story but what the hell do they keep jumping in the water when there’s a leopard seal around?) but then decides to bring him dead penguins because maybe she determined he was incapable of eating a live penguin.  She went as far as dropping a penguin carcass on his head and nudging his torso with her nose, just like your family Labrador would nudge your side, trying to get him to eat.  When he would still not eat, she gave up and there’s heartbreaking and ADORABLE photo of her looking dejected because the weird new little being in her world won’t eat.
He came back 3 more days in a row and she found him each time and hung out with him.  He started crying just as he finished telling the story. He was so touched by this kind beast that he couldn’t hep getting emotional at the memory. The story just made me smile  and feel gladness. Heart.  I’m not crying.  You are.  Shut up.  Stop looking at me.
Some might say it’s just a dumb animal.  To that sentiment, I quote Jimmy Stewart’s character from the movie Harvey:
“Years ago my mother used to say to me, she’d say, “In this world, Elwood, you must be” – she always called me Elwood – “In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.” Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant.”
I don’t really have a point except for the obvious one: I love animals and I think they are great. It’s why I want to work for an organization that tries to help them. They deserve it.
#animals #conservation #love #innocent #generous #penguins #leopard #seals #leopardseals #photography #arctic #paulnicklen #ballet #choreography #nature #wildlife

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