Man has been destroying other creatures for centuries. The inhabitants of Nosy-Burakha, for example, exterminated the whales wintering near the local shores. But suddenly they came to their senses, deciding to establish friendly relations with animals. Everyone won
From the cockpit, the ocean looks like an aquarium, where instead of fish they launched whales. Silhouettes of giants surround the island, fenced off from the blue abyss by a thin line of reef. The width of the coral wall is no more than a hundred meters. Visible only from the air, the barrier divides the body of water into two parts. On one side are whales in search of fish, on the other side are boys in search of crabs. Both whales and people are absorbed in hunting and do not see each other.
Know all over
Nosy Buraja, known to many by its former name Sainte Marie, is a tropical island stretched along the east coast of Madagascar. It is separated from the mainland by a narrow, slightly less than ten kilometers wide, strait. Humpback whales from Antarctica have come to rest in these warm waters for thousands of years, protected from wind and waves.
Former military pilot François-Xavier Meyer, or simply Fifu, knows how to track down an object, choose the right angle of observation and  ;keep the optimal distance for as long as required. Small six-seater Cessna 206 with the doors removed, it circles over another whale. Photographer Jean sticks out in the doorway along the belt. Aerial photography of whales in full swing.
“Right!” – Fifu tries to shout over the noise of the engine. Headphones do not cope with noise isolation. The Cessna rumbles like an old An-24. The black backs of two females and a calf are visible below. Fifu explains that the mother with the “calf” is accompanied by a nanny. When mom dives to the depths for food, the baby, not yet ready to go so deep, remains under the supervision of a nanny. “Hunchbacks will always help each other!” – Fifu admires.
A small motorboat with a couple of tourists is approaching the animals. Their guide points in the direction of the whales. Fifu winces. The boat got too close. According to the rules established on the island, there must be at least one hundred meters between observers and animals. And if we are talking about a female with a cub, then at least two hundred. It seems that Fifu remembered both the captain and the guide. Everyone will have a serious conversation on land.
“Aerial shooting gives a whole picture. It is very convenient to count how many individuals are currently in coastal waters,” says Fifu. He turns the plane around and we fly over another pair of whales. It seems that our pilot anticipates the appearance of animals. But in fact, over the years of flying, Fifu has learned to see “footprints” on the surface of the ocean. While moving, the whale creates water vortices with its tail. As they rise, a path of smooth spots forms on the surface in the middle of the ocean ripples. They can be used to determine the presence of a whale before it emerges.
“This is how the local whalers hunted them down,” says Fifu. He says that the Betsimisaraka, the natives of Nosy Buraha and the east coast of Madagascar, have always been very skilled at fishing. And of course, whales have traditionally been prey for them, and not an object of observation and admiration.
< strong>Class —mammals
Parvoorder —baleen whales
Family — minke whales
Genus — humpback whales
Humpback whales inhabit all the seas and oceans from the Arctic to the Antarctic, but, as a rule, do not cross the equator line, remaining within the southern or northern hemisphere. Every year they make long migrations, spending the summer in the polar latitudes, and moving to tropical and subtropical waters for the winter. They feed on small marine crustaceans and fish.
Gorbachev is distinguished by melodic singing, love for “acrobatic” studies (jumps, dances, etc.) and a unique hunting method, when a whale creates whirlwinds from bubbles under water, in which small game is entangled, like in nets. Pregnancy lasts about 11 months. The period of milk feeding – 5-7 months. The body length of adults ranges from 12 to 16 meters. Females are on average one meter longer than males. Supposed to live up to 80 years.
On the ground, Francois Meyer does not lose speed. From the cockpit of an airplane, he jumps into the cockpit of a car, despite the tropical heat and “mora-mora” – the traditional slowness characteristic of Malagasy.
We drive to the main town of Nosy Buraha, Ambudifututra, where Cetamada, a non-profit organization for the protection of marine mammals, is headquartered., founded by Fifu and his friends in 2009. Ambudifututra stands on the shore of a secluded lagoon, where at the turn of the 17th-18th centuries there was a pirate base. Treasures of those times are still found in coastal waters. Fifu's ancestor, Napoleon de Lastel, was a corsair, a pirate legalized by the French government, who established kinship and business relations with the warlike betsimisaraka in the 19th century.
Cetamada Officelocated in a spacious wooden house in close proximity to the port. The walls are hung with posters: views of whales, tails, a diagram of the whale skeleton …
“Progress and the industrial revolution of the 19th century made whaling a very profitable business,” says Fifu. “Like oil is now.” He picks up the book A History of Whaling in the Indian Ocean (in French) from the shelf and shows the illustrations. One shows half-naked natives butchering a whale on the shore. On the other -a large ship with a crane and numerous superstructures on the deck.
In the 19th century, with the arrival of the French colonialists in Madagascar, professional whale catching began using large ships and harpoon guns. The killing of animals was put on stream. Huge factory ships operated at sea. Aborigines were hired as whalers. Caught humpback whales were butchered right on board, then the fat was drowned, poured into barrels and sent to customers. Whale oil at the time was a cheap source of energy and a versatile oil substitute. In the Western world, it was widely used for street lighting until the beginning of the 20th century.
Whale oil has proved to be in demand in all kinds of industries, including the military (an excellent lubricant), as well as in the production of cosmetics (soap, cream, lipstick) and food (margarine and cheap cooking oil). “Thousands of killed whales every year! It is amazing that we still have the opportunity to look at them in the wild.”
Fifu says that in 1951 Madagascar was one of the first countries in the world to announce a ban on the industrial capture of humpback whales in coastal waters. In 1982, the International Whaling Commission imposed a moratorium on the commercial hunting of all whales. Thanks to these actions, the number of humpbacks in the western Indian Ocean has grown from 600 individuals in the 1970s to 30,000 today p>
“We no longer hunt, but we manage to make life unbearable for whales in other ways. People are very noisy neighbors. Ships, motor boats, seismic surveys all this unnerves the whales, makes them change their usual migration routes, says Fifu.
We leave the town and stop near the nearest village. Several poorly built wooden houses along the road. Laundry is dried on the trunks of palm trees. There are boats on the shore, nets lie. Our car is surrounded by a flock of curious and laughing children. Fifu makes a funny face at them and jumps to the side of the road. There is no sidewalk. The asphalt road is rolled right along the edge of the beach.
Fifu walks across the sand and picks up some plastic covers. “We are also messy. If I had such neighbors, I would probably move out of the house,” he says. Household garbage, bags, bottles. Caps from plastic bottles enter the whale's stomach along with food. Kilograms of plastic accumulate in the animal's stomach. Eventually it gets sick and dies.
“Not long ago Cetamadastarted a beach cleaning project on Nosy Buraha,” says Fifu. “We are posting announcements about upcoming events in village schools and clubs. Children respond best. For them, it's a fun game. Put on gloves, collect caps. Whoever collects the most wins.”
From the very beginning of Cetamadaemployees of the organization began to arrange lectures for schoolchildren and all comers. Over the past ten years, schoolchildren have managed to grow up, get jobs in the center, and now they themselves conduct educational talks for children. There are three dozen villages on the island, where 30,000 people live. “It's a small island,” says Fifu. “Here you can talk to everyone personally and try to explain why it is important to take care not only of yourself, but of someone else. We talk about whales as our neighbors who demand attention and respect.”
210,000 humpback whales were killed between 1903 and 1973 during commercial fishing in the Southern Hemisphere. And this is without taking into account whales caught from ordinary boats and ships.
35 tons – the weight of an adult humpback whale. Which is roughly equal to the mass of seven African elephants (the largest land animals in the world).
At parting, Fifu gives valuable recommendations on where the best Malagasy-style fish is cooked on the island, and leaves back to the city. Mark Blondel's restaurant is located at the northern tip of Nosy Burakh on the shore of a rocky bay, to which even Google does not know the way.
We admire the sea view through the large windows. No glass, only shutters. On the tables, in addition to flowers and instruments, there are massive binoculars.
“We have a unique geography! Where else can you see whales without leaving your lunch? Here you go!” Mark hands me the binoculars and shows me where to look. The humpback's dorsal fin appears for a moment on the horizon and disappears in the waves.
< img title="A wonderful neighbor: how the inhabitants of a small island in the Indian Ocean learned to live in harmony with whales" src="/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/zamechatelnyj-sosed-kak-zhiteli-malenkogo-ostrova-v-indijskom -okeane-nauchilis-zhit-v-garmonii-s-kitami-185d525.jpg" alt="A wonderful neighbor: how the inhabitants of a small island in the Indian Ocean learned to live in harmony with the whales" />
Mark brings a tray of freshly caught wet fish from the kitchen and recommends getting a gargas. Mark was born here and has been in the restaurant business for over twenty years. For the last eight years he has been building his own hotel and restaurant.
“Twenty years ago, fishermen were ready to give fish to anyone for nothing,” says Blondel. “Then the island was different: without mobile communications, the Internet, good roads, there were practically no cafes, restaurants and hotels.” Now the fishermen, and this is almost the entire male population of the surrounding villages, feel more confident. Tourists who come to watch whales have an enviable appetite and demand fresh fish and seafood every day.
“Fishermen understand that they began to live better thanks to whales,” Mark grins. their own, began to comply with the rules of responsible fishing. They turn off the engine if they see a whale nearby. Don't cross his path. Networks are also cast with caution. To make ordinary villagers think about the comfort of whales? This is an incredible shift in consciousness!”
A boat enters the bay where the restaurant is located. Two hikers in wet life jackets chatter in French so fast I can only understand numerals. Mark takes an active part in the conversation. The French are lucky. During the short walk they managed to see five whales. Twice the whale jumped out of the water. “And a lot of tails!” & nbsp; – I make out. Mark asks tourists to email him the photos they took from the boat.
“We've all become a bit of explorers here. If you see a whale, take a picture and send the files to the observation center. Even fishermen try to do it. Everyone has mobile phones. Scientists collect images of the tails every season. On the tail – an individual pattern of folds and marks. Like human fingerprints. This way you can determine who came to us for the first time, and who is a regular guest.”
Whales are nearby
Gray, humpback, blue, bowhead and Japanese whales, as well as sperm whales, minke whales, fin whales, sei whales, beluga whales and narwhals live in the Arctic and Far Eastern seas washing the Russian coast. The Russian Geographical Society has been dealing with the problems of coexistence between humans and whales for more than a decade. Every year, the Russian Geographical Society allocates grants to the Kamchatka branch of the Pacific Institute of Geography of the Far Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences for a project to study and protect humpback and other baleen whales. population structure, abundance and seasonal migrations of beluga whales in the Russian seas. A few months ago, about a hundred belugas and killer whales were released from the “whale prison” in Srednyaya Bay (Primorye).
In the same language
A whale appears suddenly and so close that I can count the bumps and scars on its back. He makes a “pf-f-f” and lets out a fountain of spray. Salty water dust drenches me to the waist. I'll be blind for a minute. While I'm wiping my glasses, biologist Andzara Saloma changes his camera for a harpoon gun, jumps onto the bench and shoots at the back of the departing whale.
“Magnificent trozona!” she shouts. When communicating with foreigners, Andzara likes to insert native words into speech. Trozona is a Malagasy whale. A shot is part of a scientific study. So a radio beacon is planted in the thick skin of a whale, and the animal's path is determined by its signals.
Andzara recently turned twenty-five years old. She was born on Nosy Buraha, but saw whales in close proximity for the first time four years ago when she decided to take part in a research trip for Cetamada volunteers.
“After that trip, my life changed,” Andzara says. “It sounds ridiculous, but before that I had never felt how big and real a whale is. It was such a strong living emotion. It was like a shower of happiness.” Now she, a young biologist, is preparing to defend her doctoral thesis on the relationship between mother and child in whales at the University of Antananarivo.
“What I like most about working with whales is that we learn to do everything ourselves. Shoot a gun, take pictures, take tests from animals, conduct genetic research. – Andzara takes out a device on a long telescopic stick from the case: – It's a hydrophone. Do you want to hear the whales sing?” She lowers the receiver into the water. Crew members and a few tourists are crowding towards us. Even the wind calms down a bit. Anzara turns the speaker up to maximum and passes the headphones around. Grunts, grunts, whistles, moans can be heard through the interference. It seems that lovers of playing the saw and fans of the theremin compete in the performing arts.
“Listen, these are really songs. They have a melodic pattern, phrases. True, we do not know what they mean. We only assume that this is how males attract females, and mothers soothe the cubs with lullabies,” Andzara comments.
One of the “singers” appears on the starboard side and, turning on its side, flaps its fin, goes deeper, makes a U-turn, emerges again and flaps with another fin. “He seems to be having fun,” says Andzara. , I crawl ashore with one desire – to lie down on a hard, stable surface. The crew of the ship, on the contrary, starts the main work. It is necessary to systematize the observations made.
Anzara downloads the songs recorded by the hydrophone into the computer. Audio tracks appear on the monitor. Despite the huge number of observations and studies, the language of whales is still a mystery to scientists. “Humpbacks can reproduce sounds with a frequency of 40 hertz,” the girl says. “People “hear” such sounds with their bodies rather than their ears. It looks like the beating of a huge heart.
Andzara says that the songs of humpback whales were recorded on the famous “Golden Disc”, sent into space aboard Voyager 1. Then, in 1977, people composed a message for other civilizations, fitting on one disk the most significant information about the Earth. Including the music of Bach, Mozart, Stravinsky and the songs of the whales, whose words we will someday understand. Nosy Buraha
< strong>Area of Nosy Burakh 222 km²
Population ~ 30,000 people
Population density 135 people/km²
Area of Madagascar 587,041 km² (46th in the world)
Population28,812,000 people (52nd)
Population density 48 persons/km²
ATTRACTIONSPirate Cemetery, Madagascar's oldest Catholic church (1857) in Amboudifuthutra, vanilla plantation and beaches on the island of Nosy Nato.
TRADITIONAL DISHES fish in Malagasy coconut sauce, steak zebu meat, cuba (sweetened peanut puree boiled in a banana leaf).
TRADITIONAL DRINKS ranuvule (baked rice infusion), vanilla tea.
SOUVENIRSvanilla, pink pepper, whale toys, woven raffia bags.
DISTANCEfrom Moscow to Ambudifututra ~ 8200 km (from 16.5 hours in flight excluding transfers)
TIME coincides with Moscow
VISA on arrival
CURRENCY Malagasy ariary (1000 MGA ~ 0,23 USD)
Photo: NPL (X4), HEMIS (X4), ZOONAR, ALAMY/LEGION-MEDIA, ISTOCK, LAIF/VOSTOCK PHOTO (X3)< /p>
Material published in Vokrug Sveta No. 5, May 2020, partially updated in April 2023