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Old 03-11-2006, 01:04 PM   #1
Dion
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Default Orphaned orca Luna found dead after being hit by tugboat

News Article
Orphaned orca Luna found dead after being hit by tugboat

VICTORIA (CP) - Luna, the dangerously friendly killer whale, has been killed doing the same sorts of things that enraged some boaters, but endeared him to hundreds of others in British Columbia and around the world.
Dr. John Ford, a whale biologist with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, said Friday it appears Luna died after getting sucked into the propeller of a tugboat in the waters off Gold River, where the whale has been living for the past five years. "There's really no blame," Ford said.

Luna loved to play with boats of all sizes and Ford said he appeared quite savvy around them, rarely getting more than a few nicks. But he miscalculated this time.

"Luna was apparently interacting with the tug as Luna used to do," Ford said from Victoria. "Luna was apparently drawn into the very large propeller. The impact was felt by people on the tug. There were blood and remains in the wake of the tug. It's very likely that Luna was struck with fatal blows by the propeller and probably died instantly."

The tug had been idling in rough, stormy waters when the accident occurred.

A spokesman for the tugboat company, Great Northern Marine Towing Ltd., of New Westminster said the captain and crew of the vessel General Jackson are heartbroken about the incident, which was described as unavoidable.

"We're all very sad about it," said Barry Connerty.

"It's pretty tragic. It's unfortunate. It was an accident. We all tried to avoid it. We did everything we could to avoid that outcome."

The crew of the General Jackson knew Luna from past experiences, but this time during bad weather the orca swam too near to the dangerous parts of the vessel, he said.

"Whenever we're in that area (of Nootka Sound) the whale plays quite a bit with the vessels, and this particular time, for whatever reason, it just happened this way," Connerty said.

The Vancouver-registered General Jackson is 29 metres long and weighs more than 27 tonnes.

Ford said Fisheries was alerted Friday morning. Staff who had been dealing with Luna for years were shaken and in tears.

Tissue samples collected by fisheries officers confirmed the animal that struck the tug was a killer whale and they're convinced it was Luna.

Luna arrived in Nootka Sound, just off Gold River, in 2001 after he got separated from his pod.

He appeared happy in his new home, but in an effort to find companionship, he took an increasingly dangerous interest in humans.

That behaviour was encouraged by some who watched him from the dock in Gold River. There were reports of people trying to brush his teeth and someone attempting to pour beer down his blowhole.

By 2004, Luna's playful bumping up against boats and float planes had become a serious hazard. Fisheries officials devised a plan to have him relocated down the coast toward Victoria in an effort to have him reunited with his pod.

The mission was abandoned after local aboriginals protested. They used canoes and drums to lure Luna away from the scientists who were trying to capture him for the move.

The Mowachaht-Muchalaht believe Luna embodied the spirit of their dead chief.

Many believed Luna was the reincarnation of hereditary chief Ambrose Maquinna who told band members he had visions of returning to Nootka Sound as a killer whale before he died almost five years ago.

Less than a week after Maquinna's death, Luna arrived and never left.

Images of the aboriginal people paddling in t raditional dug-out canoes and leading Luna away from the scientists were broadcast around the world.

After it became apparent the aboriginals were not about to let Luna leave their waters, fisheries officials and the Mowachaht co-operated in a stewardship agreement to watch out for Luna while leaving him in Nootka Sound.

Ben Jack, a Mowachaht who was on the band council during the protests over Luna, said his community will be saddened by the news.

"He brought a lot of inspiration to our people," Jack said. "It just brought your whole spirit alive. You wanted to be there with him and have him around all the time."

Jack said he encountered Luna once while paddling in a canoe. Luna pushed the canoe, but it didn't tip.

"I thought 'OK. This is going to work out."'

The publisher of Gold River's weekly newspaper, The Record, said Luna's death will be met with sadness throughout the tiny community.

"It's going to be a mixed bag here in Gold River, but I think on the balance people here have come to really like that whale," said Jerry West of The Record.

Luna had become a tourist attraction in Gold River, he said.

At least one environmental group claimed political correctness - not a tugboat - killed Luna.

"Those who wanted him to stay in Nootka Sound have killed him," said Peter Hamilton of Lifeforce.

Hamilton noted that another orphaned orca, Springer, was successfully returned to her family pod after being trapped in waters near Seattle.

"Plans and funding were available to do the same for Luna."

Ford said it's too early to say whether Fisheries should have gone ahead with the move, despite aboriginal objections.

Luna clearly wanted to be in Nootka Sound and was happy there. Moving him wouldn't necessarily have meant he would have been safe, Ford said.

"This incident with the tug could have happened anywhere, even if Luna had been moved. He likely would have continued his risky behaviour with boats. But there's only so much influence you can have over a whale's behaviour."

While Luna's antics drew tourists to the Gold River dock, he increasingly became a nuisance to local fishermen and float-plane pilots.

One man even threatened to dynamite Luna.

The Canadian Press, 2006



http://www.mytelus.com/news/article....194947&lid=hp3
http://www.reuniteluna.com/index.php
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Old 03-11-2006, 01:10 PM   #2
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Default Re: Orphaned orca Luna found dead after being hit by tugboat

How sad. I remember watching all kinds of news stories about this when he first showed up.


*edited to add some photos for those who have never seen the news stories about him.





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Old 03-11-2006, 01:13 PM   #3
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Default Re: Orphaned orca Luna found dead after being hit by tugboat

How sad
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Old 03-11-2006, 01:17 PM   #4
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Default Re: Orphaned orca Luna found dead after being hit by tugboat

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Old 03-11-2006, 03:46 PM   #5
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Default Re: Orphaned orca Luna found dead after being hit by tugboat

Aww. That's horrible.
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