Today’s guest is Pierre Robert de Latour. He is the founder and president of the Under Water Soft Encounter Alliance (USEA), the president of Orques Sans Frontières, and author of the best seller “Frère des orques” (Glénat Edition). Pierre Robert De Latour is internationally known as “The Orca Whisperer” and has more than 6,200 dives with orcas! USEA also participates in scientific research through partnerships with marine biologists and other scientists. This work has been published in prominent scientific journals such as Nature. We discuss his unique introduction into underwater encounters with Orcas, what he has learned about Orca behavior, and some big questions about what it means to inhabit a planet with another intelligence equal (perhaps superior) to our own. He also shares some incredible stories of his time underwater with the Orcas of Norway. I highly recommend his YouTube channel and links to this, as well as his organization and social media platforms are provided below. To explore some of the questions brought up in the episode in further detail please visit the episode page on allthingwildpodcast.com here:
Why Don’t Orcas Eat Us?
In the final minutes of the conversation I had with Pierre, I asked him what would he like to know about Orcas? He had clearly already thought about this question deeply and stated quickly that he would want to know why humans are not on the Orca menu. There is no record of any Orca attacking a human in the wild, even though these top predators of the seas have had an incalculable amount chances to do so. Orcas are the most dominate predator in the ocean, even surpassing the great white shark (who they have been filmed hunting). They also eat mammals! While the diet of different Orcas depends on the culture of their family group, for some Orca cultures mammals make up the majority of their diet (i.e., seals, sea lions, whales, dolphins, etc.). They have even been documented eating moose!
But Has Anyone Actually Tried to Get Eaten by an Orca?
So why not try a human? Or at least make a mistake and take a surfer out. We can only wonder, but Pierre suggested that he would stand in the water with baby seals while Orcas were hunting them to prove that even in this situation an Orca would not eat a human. I recently discovered that someone has actually ran this experiment in real life (I don’t recommend it) and approached Orcas that were in the processes of attempting to take down sperm whales. Generally, when a predator is actively killing something, it is not a good time to approach. Imagine walking up to a pride of lions as they battle to subdue a water buffalo? How do you think that would turn out?
For some reason, Orcas don’t eat us. The lack of an answer to this question has clearly been on Pierre’s mind a long time. I have been thinking about it a lot too lately. In my conversation with Robin Baird (internationally recognized scientist for his work on the dolphins and whales of Hawai’i) he stated that a species of dolphin known as false killer whales, actually share their food with humans. They apparently see something of themselves in us. Perhaps Orcas feel the same way. Maybe they recognize that eating humans will not turn out well for them. But as Pierre mentioned, why were they not eating early groups of humans who did not possess the technology to pose a threat to them? If they did, certainly these stories would have been passed down through traditional cultures that interacted with Orcas. Perhaps they instinctively recognized that the manipulative intelligence humans possess would be a danger to them? What do you think? I would love to hear other opinions on this.