Once in a great while I come across something so profoundly touching that I am compelled to share it. I was astonished by a video of a woman interacting with an elephant seal in Gold Harbour on remote South Georgia island, located in the South Atlantic off the east coast of South America. In the video, she sits on the ground next to a seal; the animal gradually creeps closer and cuddles up to her, repeatedly reaching up to touch noses. It is the purest example of trust and affection between humans and animals I have ever seen. The video was removed just two days later and the owner’s YouTube account was closed, to the consternation of all who saw it and those who had not yet seen it but had heard the excitement over the footage. Later, it reappeared, posted by a different user. That account holder eventually had to take it down due to copyright infringement issues, but now it has reappeared in several YouTube videos, thus I can once again feature it here. I have no idea how long it will stay up, but for the moment I hope many people take the time to watch.
Commenters on the original YouTube video were split in their opinions about the woman’s actions. Some pointed out that an elephant seal can be aggressive and weigh up to 6,000 pounds, while others objected more vehemently, arguing that this type of interaction irrevocably alters the natural state of wild animals. Although I agree that we should never try to initiate this type of behavior, I also believe that animals – especially mammals – crave affection. In my opinion, if the animal initiates contact, interaction is acceptable. I do wonder about the original video. Was it removed because of the controversy (commenters in social media venues can be brutal) over her actions? Did the tour company find out about the footage and ask her to remove it? I guess we will never know, I am just grateful it’s back.