A lost narwhal has found its forever home after being adopted by these lovable Beluga whales.

GREMM

After 3 years, they’re ready to make it official: this adorable group of marine buddies has staying power.

The Group for Research and Education on Marine Mammals (GREMM), a non-profit focused on whale research and conservation has been monitoring the seemingly strange bonding, in which a group of young Beluga whales have adopted a narwhal that appears to have gotten lost after wandering into Canada’s St. Lawrence River.

"It behaves like it was one of the boys," said GREMM President and Scientific Director Robert Michaud. "They are in constant contact with each other."


Sometimes referred to as “the unicorns of the sea,” narwhals are famous for their “teeth,” a tusk that can grow up to eight feet long.

GREMM has been monitoring the group for three years via a drone and noticed them playing and traveling together. The two species are closely related genetically but Michaud says they have substantial differences, such as feeding habits and habitat preferences.

However, the narwhal is showing signs of behavioral adaptation, even blowing bubbles near the surface of the water, like its Beluga buddies.

Both species are also very social, which can sometimes be a problem. For example, Michaud said that other wandering narwhals have gotten into accidents, sometimes fatal, when they tried to befriend humans or boats.

"That little narwhal that made a similar trip was very lucky," he said. "Because he found almost normal buddies."

Narwhals: They’re just like us.

OK, not really. But the unusual bonding display is a nice change of pace in a news cycle that seems to exclusively focus on what separates all creatures and things from each other.

For their part, Belugas are highly regarded for their social and even compassionate nature. If that sounds like a stretch, consider this example of a Beluga showing unbelievable tolerance toward Justin Bieber:

Photo by Bob Couey/SeaWorld San Diego via Getty Images.

Maybe letting a lonely narwhal hang out with your boys isn't such a great sacrifice when you think of it that way.

It’s a point that Harvard researcher Martin Nweeia couldn’t help but notice, telling the CBC:

"I think it shows … the compassion and the openness of other species to welcome another member that may not look or act the same. And maybe that's a good lesson for everyone."

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Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

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Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

RELATED: This aboriginal Australian used kindness and tea to trump the racism he overheard.

Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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