Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s former president known for his infamously anti-environmental stance, is reportedly being investigated by federal police after a man matching his description was seen “harassing” a humpback whale.
The incident occurred in June 2023 off the coast of São Sebastião, a seaside municipality in the state of São Paulo. According to O Globo, a person resembling Bolsonaro was filmed on a jet ski, coming within 15 meters (around 50 feet) of a humpback whale that had surfaced. Photos and videos of the unlikely encounter were then posted on social media.
"Considering that the images were taken from another vessel, it is possible to identify that there is a single person on the watercraft, who is riding and recording a video on his cell phone at the same time. The identity of this person is attributed, supposedly, to the ex-President Jair Messias Bolsonaro", said prosecutor Marília Soares Ferreira Iftim, according to the Brazilian newspaper.
Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) typically measure between 12 to 16 meters (39 to 52 feet) in length. Despite their colossal size, their mellow demeanor means they don't generally pose a threat to humans. However, there have been freak incidents in which humans have been accidentally engulfed by these gentle giants.
Bolsonaro lost power in 2022 and has been followed by several scandals, including being accused of plotting a coup against his leftwing successor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. He has since been banned from running for office until 2030.
One of the defining themes of his bumpy presidency was his persistent attempts to open up the Amazon rainforest to big business for mining, logging, and infrastructure development. As a result, his tenure as president was seen by environmentalists as a devastating blow to the Amazon rainforest and action against climate change.
Bolsonaro’s time in office was additionally marked by hostility towards Brazil’s Indigenous people. Relaxing protections on Indigenous lands have seen the communities increasingly come into conflict with illegal loggers and miners. He has a long history of aiming racist insults toward Indigenous people, describing Indigenous reserves as “an obstacle to agri-business” and calling for the forced “integration” of uncontacted tribes. The former president even once bragged he would happily eat an Indigenous person's flesh.