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Moray eel bites scuba diver and eats his thumb


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#21 Drew

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Posted 11 March 2007 - 09:31 AM

It´s a funny social conclusion that it shows an "it´s all good!" useful toe-thumb by playing with a playstation and grabbing a beer :P very important things!

You have to admit it is pretty amazing a toe can replace a thumb.

To hold a piece of bread.. etc, out and move it away at the last minute continuously and to persist to frustrate the creature , in my view, is wrong.

I know... I tell my girlfriend that all the time. :) :P

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Errr the "dive master" with exactly 61 dives or the "instructor" with exactly 121 dives? Hey they were young and looked great in bikinis...errr the female ones that is. ^_^
I have to say the risks of feeding wild animals far outweigh the benefits. For example the feeding issue does rear the ugly side of the business. How many people have been bitten by the morays in sting ray city, prompting some ops to go out and kill the moray to protect the biz. Then there's the tigersharks Africa which are fed for divers which go right up to spearos (the odd looking divers) for food, who then in a panic shoot them in the head. Or the overly aggressive silvertips in Milne Bay weaned on feedings and frequently harass divers, even tearing up the knee of Dinah Halstead (who incidently was handfeeding them)? I've had fusiliers peck on my hand because they are accustomed to being fed, this happens all over the place.
The upside to feeding is increased tourism which increases money for locals which increases the protection of the reefs and fish (arguable since tourism brings in more people, and we all know what more people means).
The whole argument of domestic vs wild animals is usually where dissent from either side fall back to (well ok it's really about money but let's pretend that isn't the real problem :)). Sure humans have domesticated many animals over the history of our evolution. Hell I even give a kid an ice cream for getting an answer right. However, a dog, which has been bred over hundreds and even thousands of years for domestic use is not the same as a wild dolphin captured to become a show piece at some park or feeding wild animals, especially when there are repercussions. How many national parks tell people not to feed wildlife because it can endanger people (bears, babboons etc)?
Unfortunately it is a VERY contentious issue, one that's even gone through legal battles in FL. Both sides feel strongly about their stance. Unfortunately, it like any other contentious issue, it's never ending. The grey area is largely individual so coming to an absolute answer is just extremely difficult.

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#22 frogfish

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Posted 11 March 2007 - 09:35 AM

It looked like it took some very extensive, very expensive (even in Thailand) and probably very painful surgery to graft that toe onto his hand. Was all that really just so that this guy can hold a Tiger Beer in his right hand again without dropping it? It does all seem a bit unnecessary.

Probably a lot of people here know Valerie Taylor, a wonderful woman who has given a lot to the industry in many ways. As many of you also know, Valerie befriended a giant honeycomb moray a("Honey") at Kerracka (sp?) Island in the Bandas which she regularly interacted with when she was in the Bandas. The moray seemed to recognize her, and there is wonderful footage from the 1980s of Valerie holding and caressing "Honey". (Yes, Feeding was involved.) Des Alwi, who has done so much to keep marine life in the Bandas in wonderful shape, made it clear to all that Valerie's honeycomb was to receive particular protection. When Ron and Valerie went back in the Bandas last October on the Seven Seas (which is run by Valerie's nephew, Mark Heighes), she hoped that Honey might still be around. Unfortunately, that eel was not to be found, though there were several other large honeycombs in the same general area. Sic transit gloria mundi (or, in this case, "Honey".)

Valerie would have known better than anyone that there was a risk interacting with the moray in this way, (and she has also had the misfortune of being bit badly once by a shark). I don't believe in feeding wild animals, but I also realize that our sensibilities about interactions with animals have changed since the 70s and 80s. I didn't much like what the diver in this video was doing either, but the harsh condemnatory tone in some of the postings (particularly Graham's) bothered me a bit, particularly when I thought of Valerie reading this (though I don't think she's "on" wetpixel).

Had Honey still been in her hole on Kerraka, and had Valerie been able to feed and play with her old pal one more time, I wouldn't have been in the least scandalized or horrified. Valerie Taylor has undoubtedly forgotten more about fish, shark and other marine life behavior than I will ever know.

Anyway, I don't feel particularly sorry for the moray in the video, which seemed to be fairly okay with the interactions (and the food) for at least the first part of the video, and it got a decent thumb desert on top of the sausages out of it in the end too.

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#23 Graham Abbott

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Posted 11 March 2007 - 09:50 AM

Robert, how would you feel if this same guy done this on your trip and you had to go back to port missing dives, just because your dive guide was playing with animals. I have seen the footage of Valarie Taylor in the Ring of Fire with big morays. If I remember rightly she was not teasing it like this?

#24 ce4jesus

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Posted 11 March 2007 - 10:12 AM

To add my pennies worth, my concern would be for the new diver whom stumbled upon the moray's hole with no food in tow. The first time an innocent diver is attacked the eel will probably suffer a much worse fate as to not dent the tourism wallet. However these guides, themselves, have been trained to pull stunts like this for divers who tip handsomely for a little showmanship and a good photo op. Its tough to blame them. Kudos to the guide however for taking it all in stride. I would have been gouging the poor things eyes out with my other thumb, not gently trying to pry it loose. On a lighter note, I've never heard the word $hit so finely pronounced through a regulator before.
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#25 DeanB

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Posted 11 March 2007 - 10:44 AM

It doesn't matter who's doing the stroking, petting..kissing whatever of the animals... their wild...If they turn around and bite your arse or worse your only to blame. No ones having a moan at the 'Their nice people' personalities.."Thats my friend your talking about..their great" Just isn't the issue.

Its (as mentioned) the animal that might suffer if it decides to bite you after you've coaxed it out of its safe hole with food then made it chase you for it, suddenly nips you in the heat of the moment, then you stab it with your knife cause your pissed off..Wrong move mister !!! your to blame not the poor creature.

You play Russian roulette..one day BANG !!! its not the guns fault you've lost half your head.

Maybe the guides boss / operator should take the blame. Education, education, education... :) If i started to get to know my latest subject and then started stroking it, dancing with it, taking it out on a saturday night trusting it unconditionally and then it stole my wallet..It would be my fault. Not the fishes..Its wild...Wild its absolutely Livid.

Breathe Dean..Breathe.

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#26 Scuba_SI

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Posted 11 March 2007 - 10:56 AM

OK so back to your $0.2 with a hypothetical question. You book a live aboard trip and then... say a little over half way through your trip your dive guide goes and tries to grab a some big animal, he looses a hand and the boat has to go back to shore to get the guide to a hospital. As you are way out in the open ocean this means you have to miss the rest of your dive trip as you steam back to shore. Would you be OK with this?


Hi Graham,

The important part of my backing of feeding is 'in a responsible way', i personally have never tried to handfeed a moray, they give me the 'heebie jeebies' to quote my mother, the often opaque appearance of their eye means i don't have faith in their ability to tell the difference between my fingers and the food.

With the sharks i used to feed, i always had a back up instructor watching my back, we worked together for years and were very good mates, so i felt very safe, and we knew when to call it a day. We were also the only people feeding and we only did it once a week at the site normally. and diving there without food too meant the sharks didn't associate divers with food. The only time i was bitten was by a juvenile silvertip, and it literally just gently clamped on my arm and released, as it knew it wasn't food, i still use the wetsuit now. It heightened my respect for these amgnificent animals and was a warning i wish teh gentleman in hte video had had.

Back to the liveaboard thing, we were 4 hours from the port at our feeding location, so a cancelled trip was never an issue. That falls down to the discretion of the captain, if you are 3 days away from port, then don't feed!

We also always asked our guests if they felt strongly against feeding to come and talk to us about it, it there was a majority who didnt want it, then we didnt do it. If there was a few who didn't like it we would organise a different dive for them.

I have never dived/dove with a handfed moray, so i cant really comment on them harassing other divers without food, in my experience with fairly small sharks, if you don't have and food on you, and are out of the way of the scent trail you are fine,.

This subject always brings strong emotions and comments from divers, and i dont think either side of the argument is wrong, it all depends on location, dive guide experience and many other variables.

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#27 Graham Abbott

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Posted 11 March 2007 - 10:59 AM

If i started to get to know my latest subject and then started stroking it, dancing with it, taking it out on a saturday night trusting it unconditionally and then it stole my wallet..It would be my fault. Not the fishes..Its wild...Wild its absolutely Livid.

Are you sure you are talking fish there? :)

Hey come on this is Wetpixel, how about looking at this photographically. Is a shot of a moray eel out in the open surrounded by other divers a sort of wish list kind of photograph? Or is this kind of thing going to bring you the kind of photograph you would like to shoot?

I think it certainly made for a fantastic film sequence. It now gives out a great lesson for others, the morel to the story obviously being “treat marine animals with the utmost respect”

#28 Drew

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Posted 11 March 2007 - 10:59 AM

Just to demonstrate the power of the jaws of eels, another vid of a eel devouring a crab. What's even more interesting is that another crab actually attacked the eel while it attacked the crab.

Eel eating crab

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#29 Graham Abbott

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Posted 11 March 2007 - 11:21 AM

Hi Scuba_SI, I don't have any major problems with feeds and the likes, as you say "if done responsibly" and when all divers want this kind of diving.

I admit to doing a bit of feeding myself, though generally not with animals that could cause me great harm. I tend to go for the unusual, rare and hard to find critters that divers would not usually see without... let just say, a little invitation. For example - a Bobbit worm coming out of its hole like this...

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#30 Scuba_SI

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Posted 11 March 2007 - 11:31 AM

One of my worst dive experiences so far was on a dive out or Port Douglas many years ago with a Dm who had a loaf of bread with them, she was throwing the stuff everywhere to attract the fish, that i didn't agree with at all and always tried to ensure that we were perceived in a very different manner to what i saw that day on the GBR.

As for the Bobbit worm? What did you dangle in front of that to get it to come out? And did it eat it or drive 1000km away and throw it out of the window?? :)

Just to demonstrate the power of the jaws of eels, another vid of a eel devouring a crab. What's even more interesting is that another crab actually attacked the eel while it attacked the crab.

Eel eating crab


I'm not sure on this one and may get shot down in flames but it might be worth it if i'm right......

Has Drew just got something wrong!?!?!?! I thought a Wolf eel isn't a true eel... :P ^_^

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#31 Graham Abbott

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Posted 11 March 2007 - 11:52 AM

As for the Bobbit worm? What did you dangle in front of that to get it to come out?

A clue -- sometimes you don't need to use anything but what nature has to offer underwater. Like most animals, they will often attack their usual food scource, if the food cource comes within striking distance!

#32 Drew

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Posted 11 March 2007 - 10:15 PM

As for the Bobbit worm? What did you dangle in front of that to get it to come out? And did it eat it or drive 1000km away and throw it out of the window?? :)
I'm not sure on this one and may get shot down in flames but it might be worth it if i'm right......

Has Drew just got something wrong!?!?!?! I thought a Wolf eel isn't a true eel... :P ^_^


Eunice Aphroditois aka Bobbit worm is interesting, etymologicallywise (is that a word?). If my greek mythology doesn't fail me, Kronos cut off Uranus' testes and threw it into the sea, then out came Aphrodite. So Lorena wasn't the first snipper, although she ultimately became the most famous one since she went for the main equipment vs castration.

And I didn't get it wrong.. I just forgot to add the wolf in front of the eel.

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#33 frogfish

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Posted 11 March 2007 - 11:32 PM

Robert, how would you feel if this same guy done this on your trip and you had to go back to port missing dives, just because your dive guide was playing with animals. I have seen the footage of Valarie Taylor in the Ring of Fire with big morays. If I remember rightly she was not teasing it like this?


Graham,

Please read what I said. I certainly wasn't by any means endorsing what this guy was doing or the way he was doing it, just troubled by the tone in which some condemned what he did. In any case, I think we would both agree he has paid. Some people (though not me, and reading your post I guess not you either) might condemn Valerie for the kind of interactions with animals she has practiced.

As for your question, please rest assured that if I'm ever on a trip you are guiding, and if a moray or whatever were to chomp off one of your body parts, I'll vote to continue the trip. :)

Edited by frogfish, 12 March 2007 - 12:29 AM.

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#34 Giles

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Posted 12 March 2007 - 09:25 AM

How many people have been bitten by the morays in sting ray city, prompting some ops to go out and kill the moray to protect the biz.

Twice as I recall .. the reasons the people got bit .. trying to protect a customer who was unaware of the eel swimming around her .. and one had been feeding it. The other time a guide got bit I believe while feeding it .. and I know the idiot whos employees fished the eel out .. that disgusts me (but its only happened once to my knowledge). Over the years I guess it could be more .. I am recalling from 10 years.

This discussion has brought out some high horses and quite a few opinionated responses without fully reading what they are responding too. :) it's great to belittle other people who are young and learning when you are older and supposedly more wise I guess. Learn from older peoples mistakes rather than your own .. is this the moral of the story ?
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#35 DeanB

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Posted 12 March 2007 - 09:43 AM

Thats what discussion forums are for...

Whether it be.."High horses" or not, its opinions..Whether these opinions matter..Thats for the respondent to choose.

People will keep on trying to push the boundries and 'show off' to friends or try to make wild animals pets for their own pleasure or any other matter..Thats their look out.

As long as the creature's unharmed, thats all I care about. We are as far as I'm concerned in their house..

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#36 Drew

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Posted 12 March 2007 - 10:26 AM

please rest assured that if I'm ever on a trip you are guiding, and if a moray or whatever were to chomp off one of your body parts, I'll vote to continue the trip. :)

Now now... I would've at least called for help to meet the boat at the next dive site. You do know there are seaplanes in Bali for just such emergencies.

Twice as I recall...

It's happened more than that in the last 10 years. Then you also throw in the stingray bites. Bottom line is some people think it's acceptable damage for the odd person to get bit and the ray to be killed etc. and many who think it's not.

Learn from older peoples mistakes rather than your own .. is this the moral of the story ?

Well that would be so nice as many of our previous generation's mistakes are being repeated. Europe and the US have biologically killed rivers, you'd think India and China would go ... "hey let's not follow in those bozo's foot steps!" Instead the bozos go... "hey they did it so we can too!"
I think the strong condemnation also comes from a concern for other human being's safety. You have to admit that this incident was totally avoidable. It's a waste to lose a thumb on something as frivolous as this.
As for Valerie's interactions, personally I'd have a problem with it. Will I say something to her, yes? Would I cut her air hose to stop her from doing it?....... give me time to think over that one :P

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#37 danielandrewclem

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Posted 12 March 2007 - 10:45 AM

Feeding a large, toothy fish some sausages that are the same color and shape as your own digits is deeply irresponsible, as it could teach the fish to regard other divers' fingers as sausages in the future (let alone your own in that very moment, as was the case here). Habituating wild species to our presence may afford us the chance to learn more about them or have fun, photogenic experiences with them (a la Valerie Taylor's "Honey"), but it also makes it a lot more likely that something bad could eventually happen, because now we've normalized and encouraged the encounter. Even animals that have been trained or tamed can end up reverting to their instincts under certain circumstances or with the right cues, and the results aren't always pretty (see: Siegfried and Roy). There is something very naive about this assumption that seems to underlie the activities of some divers, u/w filmmakers, and the Timothy Treadwells of the world: that we ought to be able to interact peacefully with any species on Earth, and that violent interactions are the anomaly. Yes, it is possible to habituate a wild animal to your presence, but it's magical thinking to surmise that there's something natural or transcendant about being near a bear or swimming alongside a great white. This is precisely why I despise Rob Stewart's film "Sharkwater": because he anthropomorphizes sharks to such an extreme extent that he actually believes that when he swims with them he is communing with them.

Some people simply go too far in trying to show that potentally dangerous animals are not always dangerous.
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#38 Poliwog

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Posted 12 March 2007 - 11:34 AM

How many people have been bitten by the morays in sting ray city, prompting some ops to go out and kill the moray to protect the biz.


Lets not forget about getting big hickies from the stingrays too! :) :P
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#39 Giles

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Posted 12 March 2007 - 04:25 PM

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comments welcome ...


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#40 davichin

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Posted 12 March 2007 - 04:40 PM

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comments welcome ...



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