Ugh omg. Please. Guys honestly. Do any of you know Juno at all? I have the privilege of getting to visit him an average of once a month, since I’m a member at Mystic, and this has become a normal behavior for him. While I’m definitely NOT saying this behavior is a good thing, it’s also most likely NOT an aggressive behavior, at least not with Juno.
Here’s the backstory behind WHY Juno does this, which the article clearly failed to state, and what the staff members do about it:
Juno is naturally a very curious and interactive whale, more so than most other whales. It could be because he’s younger, or it could also be that he’s just a generally friendly whale who enjoys people, much like Takara (an orca) and her children (Trua, Kohana, and Sakari). Regardless, he LOVES people, especially his trainers. When Juno arrived at Mystic he observed Kela, one of the other belugas, occasionally jaw popping at small children at the glass. Now Kela, although she seems to enjoy watching people, does not like small children. If a child is tapping the glass or sometimes even if they’re just standing there, Kela will sometimes come over and jaw pop at them as a way of saying “BACK OFF!” In Kela’s case, when she jaw pops, she means it aggressively. Now Juno, prior to coming to Mystic, did not really know what jaw popping was. I’m sure he’d seen it before, but he’d never really seen how people react to it (Specifically, the jumping/laughing/shrieking of small children)
After watching Kela do it, Juno picked up the behavior, and soon found out that he could jaw pop at people to get a reaction out of them. I’ve seen Juno come by the glass and jaw pop at 3-5 kids in a row, kids who were not even touching the glass, let alone hitting it or screaming. Juno jaw pops 90% of the time for the reaction, not out of aggression. Once Juno knows you won’t react, he also stops jaw popping. Juno jaw popped at me once, in August 2011, and I didn’t react at all that first, and apparently last, time. He has not jaw popped at me since. He normally won’t jaw pop at trainers or any other workers as well, and 9/10 times he only jaw pops at children under 6/7 years old.
Now the staff DOES watch people around the UV areas. There’s usually staff there all day during the summer (normally volunteers although a trainer does come down sometimes as well), and during holiday events (such as their Fall-O-Ween activities and their Christmas activities). In the off-season/winter months, there’s staff there usually every other hour or so. If the staff is there, they are usually on mic, and will repeatedly tell people “We ask that you do not tap on the glass as it bothers the whales, thank you!” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that statement. Also, staff members will come down and ask people to stop tapping if they see them doing it. Now staff members COULD tell people that jaw popping is an aggressive behavior, but the whole point of zoos and aquariums is to show people that these animals are not out to murder them (as people previously thought of most animals) and therefore telling people that Juno’s jaw popping is an aggressive behavior (which, as I previously stated, in his case usually is not) that could cause people to fear and even hate belugas, which is the exact opposite of what Mystic is trying to do.
While I, along with the staff and trainers, wish Juno would stop jaw popping for his own good, it’s a very bad habit to break, and one that’s almost impossible to stop unless they kept Juno away from guests, which would also be cruel, as he does seem to very much enjoy watching people and interacting with guests from behind the glass. If Juno was as stressed out and aggravated as this article claims he is, he wouldn’t be by the glass and he wouldn’t continue to come by the glass. Mystic has a very large, hidden back area he could go to where he wouldn’t hear or see the people, and Mystic also has a secluded back pool that he could go to, however, Juno continues to stay by the glass doing his thing. Clearly he must get something out of it, or he wouldn’t be there.
(Note: the information above comes from my own observations, information from volunteers, and information from trainers)
Take this in guys, do some research before you believe everything you read.
Each animal is all their own and the people who try calling Juno’s jaw-popping “sad” and “aggressive” clearly know nothing about him in real life.
Juno is a ham, a happy, healthy, captive-born beluga who loves interacting with people at the glass.