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Educating children


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Often, the mistake is made of believing that instinct and learning are opposed to each other. While instinct is inherited knowledge, learning occurs after birth. One advantage of learning over instinct is that behavior can be quickly modified in response to changing situations. A disadvantage is that young individuals of many intelligent species are defenseless at birth and rely on the teachings they receive from their parents.

Among orcas, this learning is highly marked by the strong dependence of the calves in their first year of life. During the nursing period, they learn from their elders through play, acquiring the skills they need to live, especially the ability to obtain food. This learning is acquired and perfected through trial and error.

It is common to see a group of female orcas accompanied by their calves, capturing a young sea lion. The game consists of keeping the sea lion away from the coast and releasing it so that the orca calves can capture it again. If the sea lion manages to elude the calves, the mother captures it again and releases it once more for the calf to continue attempting to capture it. Once the calf has successfully captured the sea lion, it will release it to pursue it again and again or allow another calf to practice. Sometimes the game involves several orca calves working together to capture the frightened prey.

The surprising thing about this behavior is that the sea lion rarely gets hurt, at least not physically. After a while, the orcas seem to get bored with the game and simply release the sea lion so that it can escape, in a state of visible panic, towards the beach. Obviously, if the orcas had been hungry, they would have devoured it, in fact, they often do. But in this case, it was a practice of training or perhaps another lesson to their offspring, teaching them not to kill unnecessarily.

The orcas would not kill the sea lion for pleasure; they don’t even harm it. Killing an animal for pleasure is an attitude reserved only for some human beings who assert their power over the creatures by killing them. Fortunately, other human beings, aware of their intelligence, prefer to teach their children the immense importance of preserving life.

“You cannot defend what you do not love, and you cannot love what you do not know.”