Video shows aquarium beluga either playing with children or begging for help

Beluga in question has a history of scaring children while amused parents watch and film.
By Matt Bradwell   |   Updated Aug. 22, 2014 at 5:10 PM

MYSTIC, Conn., Aug. 22 (UPI) -- A video of a beluga whale interacting with children in a Connecticut zoo has sparked debate over the nature of the whale's behavior.

The video shows a beluga whale named Juno repeatedly whip his head to face the children before screeching loudly in their general direction.

"He's really just playing with them," Dr. Tracy Romano, chief marine biologist at Mystic Aquarium where Juno is kept, told CBS News.

"He's playing peekaboo. Boo! ... The kids getting his reaction is really what's spurring him on to keep doing it."

Despite Romano's rationalization, reaction online has been largely negative.

"You exploit animals shame on you, you pay to KEEP these animals behind glass just for your entertainment," reads the video's top-voted comment.

"This is not a friendly or teasing behavior," notes another observer. "This animal is completely stressed and that is a very aggressive gesture toward the head of an enemy."

Juno has a history of emphatic vocalization. The top three video results for "aggressive beluga" on Google are videos of Juno exhibiting the same behavior in separate incidents in 2011.

"Intelligence is hard to define," explains Romano.

"I would say that these whales are highly evolved for adapting to their environment. As far as what they're thinking, we can't say what they're thinking."

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