James Taylor is used to adventure. The 41-year-old South African extreme sports fanatic regularly posts videos of his feats on his Facebook page. One day he is scaling cliffs in Thailand. The next week he is skydiving over another exotic location.
But recently the married father of one had an adventure he didn’t necessarily ask for when he came across a giant squid while paddleboarding off the coast of Melkbosstrand, South Africa, and decided to catch it then and there.
“It was quite badly injured and barely alive when I caught it,” he wrote on Facebook, where he posted the video last week. “It didn’t even really try and get away, so we ended up putting it out of its misery when we got to the beach. It felt like the best thing to do at the time.”
Taylor’s decision to drag the giant squid ashore didn’t come without drama, both in the sea and later online.
While attempting to wrangle it with a rope, the giant squid that Taylor said was later determined to be a mature male, which can measure up to 33 feet in length, began wrapping its long tentacles around Taylor’s paddleboard. At one point, Taylor got knocked off, which under normal circumstances may have endangered his life.
When healthy, giant squids are dangerous beings, capable of catching and eating prey the size of small whales, according to National Geographic. They first use their tentacles, which feature both sharp rings and suction cups, to cage their prey before consuming it by breaking it apart with their sharp, parrot-like beaks.
The squid Taylor came across in the Atlantic Ocean, however, wasn’t healthy. According to Earth Touch News, Taylor said the squid he found was missing some of its tentacles and covered in what appeared to be seal bite marks. Those observed injuries, combined with the squid’s overall lethargy (Taylor said the squid was not moving at all when he first spotted it), led Taylor to conclude that the squid had floated out of its deep-sea habitat to the surface to die, and so he thought if he could beach it, researchers from a nearby aquarium may be able to retrieve it for research.
“It was unfortunately a holiday and they did not have any staff on call to drive through, so we dissected it and took a bunch of videos and photos that we later sent to them so that they could at least have a look at what we found,” he said on Facebook. “They sent these on to a professor who has been studying giant squid in South Africa for the last 15 years and he was very excited about the find. He told me the next day that he has only seen five wash up on South African shores since he started his studies.”
When reached by phone on Thursday, however, Taylor said researchers eventually did make it to the beach a few days later where the squid’s body was left and “there was some stuff that was salvaged.”
While the researchers were impressed with Taylor’s foresight, people online had different reactions as Taylor’s video, which was recorded in March but only posted this month, went viral.
“Why would you take it to the beach? Because you guessed it was hurt, you get to decide it gets to die?” a critic wrote in response to the video Taylor also posted on Instagram.
Another asked (via the Daily Mail): “What requires you to take a suffering marine animal and torture it some more out of the water just because it’s injured? Are you a marine biologist or was your ‘research’ really just opportunistic curiosity?”
Taylor, who co-founded the company FanCam, which allows stadiums to take highly detailed pictures of fans in the stands to make giant composite images, said he’s not upset about the negative comments. In fact, he said, he’s a bit relieved.
“I like to see people concerned about the fate of the world,” he said. “They’re upset that something got hurt and I was there for those last seconds, and I understand if they’re angry in a way.”
“I don’t like seeing things die,” he added. “It’s not a nice thing.”