Recently, a video surfaced on social media that disturbed me — but not in the way it seemed to have stirred up controversy among other viewers.
The video was dramatic, to say the least. At first, you see a young girl on a pier, feeding a sea lion with her family and other onlookers.
People think the sea lion is being cute and flirty, like a dolphin. You give it food, it does a little dance, right?
Shot near a dock in British Columbia, Canada, the video shows several people throwing food into the water, drawing closer to the animal as they get more comfortable.
The sea lion becomes more comfortable, too, launching out of the water as if yearning for more food. The young girl eventually takes a seat on the edge of the dock, and this is when the “awws” that usually accompany feeding a foreign creature turn to gasps.
Upon sitting down, the animal simultaneously leaps up again as it has done before, now pulling her in by her dress. Her grandfather is seen almost instantly jumping into the water, pulling the girl back up onto the dock, then himself, and, without much commotion or commentary, the family and others quickly walk away.
When human life is threatened, there is a feeling of anger. People shoot the offenders all the time, whether they be other humans, animals, or even a tree that cut through their house. Likely people will argue such retaliation is warranted, but this is not the point right now. I am merely here to discuss why people should not be upset with the sea lion; why the sea lion’s response is a massive statement to the human population in its entirety.
When I saw the video, all I could think of were all the animals who get a bad rap for behaving naturally, like when dolphins and whales, for instance, react during forced performances, snatching cameras and people. Concern soon arises over what is to happen next to the creature, from how the media will portray them to how their captors will treat them.
But this shouldn’t be what people discuss. The headlines for the sea lion shouldn’t be reading as they have:
“Girl Dragged Into Water By Sea Lion Treated For Possible ‘Seal Finger’ Infection”
“Sea Lion Grabs Girl From Dock and Pulls Her Underwater”
“Shocking Moment Sea Lion Grabs Girl From Pier”
The headlines should be asking why.
The California sea lion can reach more than seven feet in length, and weigh up to 860 pounds. Its diet consists primarily of fish, squid, and shellfish.
Naturally curious creatures, they are not known to be violent.
The sea lion in the video wasn’t attempting to eat the child, or harm the child intentionally. It had been aroused with food repeatedly off the pier by onlookers, and, as the video shows, was getting more comfortable, more excited, each time, and so it began to launch out of the water.
The sea lion grabbed the girl mistakenly, simply seeking more of the food people lining the dock were throwing.
Though the sea lion meant no harm, the video shows a very scary situation. A little girl could have been killed. This is where we can all learn a lesson. A wild sea lion is, by no means, domesticated. It is not up to us to believe that the sea lion can differentiate between the back of a little girl’s dress suddenly appearing in front of it, and food being thrown about.
Feeding wild animals has incredible risks. This is one of them.
Another is that doing so can have a long-term impact on their behaviour, teaching them to “equate humans with free food,” according to Director of Florida Program for Shark Research George Burgess.
Sea creatures are incredibly beautiful, mystical creatures. But abusing them for our entertainment is unacceptable and threatens both their safety and our own.
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