Monday, January 26, 2015

Animal defence mechanisms

An annoyed or startled whale may try to thwart personal space-invaders by stirring up a "poonado".

Have you ever been on the receiving end of an animal’s defence mechanism? A warning growl, a nip or kick perhaps, or even the unleashing of the dreaded anal gland secretions? The aim, of course, is to develop one’s approach and handling of animals such that one makes them at ease. But anyone who works closely with animals knows that they can feel defensive on occasion.

Canadian photographer KeriWilk, who was it must be acknowledged diving without equipment so he didn’t annoy the whale he was trying to photograph, annoyed the whale he was trying to photograph. How did the whale respond?

It defecated. Not an unusual defence mechanism for any frightened or startled animal. Just a lot more of it.

In one of the moreentertaining media interviews I’ve read, Wilk, who was with three colleagues, describes how the marine motion seemed to last for an eternity.

“For of us looked at each other with confusion, then back at the whale, expecting that any second its call from nature would come to an end,” he told News Corp.

“Instead, the whale bobbed up and down, spun in circles and waved the poo in every direction for several minutes while we just sat back and watched. The water was crystal clear, initially, and was the most idyllic Caribbean blue water than you could imagine.”

Several waves of whale faeces later, vigorously shaken and stirred by the whale, and the ocean looked like chocolate milk.  Engulfed in the 30-metre plume of poo, the divers momentarily lost visibility as whale excrement filled their goggles (and snorkels). The account of what the world’s media have dubbed the “poonado” is disgusting, yet fascinating.

It’s a reminder that no matter how large an animal is, humans can evoke a fear response. Animals – humans included – prefer it when we respect their personal space.

Learn more about reptile husbandry

If you want to learn a bit more about reptiles and their husbandry and you’re in Sydney or close to it, the Hawkesbury Herpetological Society is holding its Annual Reptile Expo on Sunday March 1 at Penrith Panthers Exhibition Marquee on Mulgoa Road, Penrith from 9am-4pm. 

Exotic reptiles and venomous snakes will be on display. Class 1 and 2 reptiles will be for sale, and reptile retailers selling enclosures, food, lighting and accessories will be there. There is an entry fee ($10 for grown-ups, $5 for kids <12 span="">